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Channels (Austin). 2012 May-Jun;6(3):139-40. doi: 10.4161/chan.20973. Epub 2012 May 1.

Two-pore domain potassium channels: variation on a structural theme.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Calgary, AB Canada.


The ability of cells to reliably fire action potentials is critically dependent upon the maintenance of a hyperpolarized resting potential, which allows voltage-gated Na(+) and Ca(2+) channels to recover from inactivation and open in response to a subsequent stimulus. Hodgkin and Huxley first recognized the functional importance a small, steady outward leak of K(+) ions to the resting potential, action potential generation and cellular excitability, and we now appreciate the contribution of inward rectifier-type K(+) channels (Kir or KCNJ channels) to this process. More recently, however, it has become evident that two-pore domain K(+) (K2P) channels also contribute to the steady outward leak of K(+) ions, and thus, maintenance of the resting potential. Molecular cloning efforts have demonstrated that K2P channel exist in yeast to humans, and represent a major branch in the K(+) channel superfamily. Humans express 15 types of K2P channels, which are grouped into six subfamilies, based on similarities in amino acid sequence and functional properties. Although K2P channels are not voltage-gated, due to the absence of a canonical voltage sensor domain, their activity can be regulated by a variety of stimuli, including mechanical force, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) (e.g., arachidonic acid), volatile anesthetics, acidity/pH, pharmacologic agents, heat and signaling events, such as phosphorylation and protein-protein interactions. K2P channels thus represent important regulators of cellular excitability by virtue of their impact on the resting potential, and as such, have garnered considerable attention in recent years.

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