, Volume 362, Issue 6, pp 453-479

Structure, function and pharmacology of voltage-gated sodium channels

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Voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) are responsible for the initial inwards current during the depolarisation phase of action potential in excitable cells. Therefore, VGSCs are crucial for cardiac and nerve function, since the action potential of nerves and muscle cannot occur without them. Their importance in generation and transmission of signals has been known for more than 40 years but the more recent introduction of new electrophysiological methods and application of molecular biology techniques has led to an explosion of research on many different ion channels, including VGSCs. Their extraordinary biological importance makes them logical and obvious targets for toxins produced by animals and plants for attack or defence. The action of these and similar substances modulating the function of the VGSCs is interesting with respect to their possible use in medicine or use as tools in the study of these molecules. This review summarises recent progress in this research field and, in particular, considers what is known about the relationship of the structure to function, including a current understanding of the pharmacological modulation of VGSCs.