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Prog Biophys Mol Biol. 2006 Oct;92(2):185-208. Epub 2005 Nov 8.

A structural interpretation of voltage-gated potassium channel inactivation.

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Department of Physiology, University of British Columbia, 2146 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3.


After channel activation, and in some cases with sub-threshold depolarizing stimuli, Kv channels undergo a time-dependent loss of conductivity by a family of mechanisms termed inactivation. To date, all identified inactivation mechanisms underlying loss of conduction in Kv channels appear to be distinct from deactivation, i.e. closure of the voltage-operated activation gate by changes in transmembrane voltage. Instead, Kv channel inactivation entails entry of channels into a stable, non-conducting state, and thereby functionally reduces the availability of channels for opening. That is, if a channel has inactivated, some time must expire after repolarization of the membrane voltage to allow the channel to recover and become available to open again. Dramatic differences between Kv channel types in the time course of inactivation and recovery underlie various roles in regulating cellular excitability and repolarization of action potentials. Therefore, the range of inactivation mechanisms exhibited by different Kv channels provides important physiological means by which the duration of action potentials in many excitable tissues can be regulated at different frequencies and potentials. In this review, we provide a detailed discussion of recent work characterizing structural and functional aspects of Kv channel gating, and attempt to reconcile these recent results with classical experimental work carried out throughout the 1990s that identified and characterized the basic mechanisms and properties of Kv channel inactivation. We identify and discuss numerous gaps in our understanding of inactivation, and review them in the light of new structural insights into channel gating.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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