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Biochem Pharmacol. 2010 Jul 15;80(2):160-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2010.03.017. Epub 2010 Mar 25.

Associated proteins: The universal toolbox controlling ligand gated ion channel function.

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  • 1Dpt of Neuroscience, Geneva, Switzerland.


Ligand gated ion channels are integral multimeric membrane proteins that can detect with high sensitivity the presence of a specific transmitter in the extracellular space and transduce this signal into an ion flux. While these receptors are widely expressed in the nervous system, their expression is not limited to neurons or their postsynaptic targets but extends to non-neuronal cells where they participate in many physiological responses. Cells have developed complex regulatory mechanisms allowing for the precise control and modulation of ligand gated ion channels. In this overview the roles of accessory subunits and associated proteins in these regulatory mechanisms are reviewed and their relevance illustrated by examples at different ligand gated ion channel types, with emphasis on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. Dysfunction of ligand gated ion channels can result in neuromuscular, neurological or psychiatric disorders. A better understanding of the precise function of associated proteins and how they impact on ligand gated ion channels will provide new therapeutic opportunities for clinical intervention.

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