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Annu Rev Physiol. 1997;59:171-91.

Inward rectifier potassium channels.

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Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.


The past three years have seen remarkable progress in research on the molecular basis of inward rectification, with significant implications for basic understanding and pharmacological manipulation of cellular excitability. Expression cloning of the first inward rectifier K channel (Kir) genes provided the necessary break-through that has led to isolation of a family of related clones encoding channels with the essential functional properties of classical inward rectifiers, ATP-sensitive K channels, and muscarinic receptor-activated K channels. High-level expression of cloned channels led to the discovery that classical inward so-called anomalous rectification is caused by voltage-dependent block of the channel by polyamines and Mg2+ ions, and it is now clear that a similar mechanism results in inward rectification of alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA)-kainate receptor channels. Knowledge of the primary structures of Kir channels and the ability to mutate them also has led to the determination of many of the structural requirements of inward rectification.

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