Ion channels in inflammation

  • Michael EisenhutEmail author
  • Helen Wallace
Invited Review


Most physical illness in vertebrates involves inflammation. Inflammation causes disease by fluid shifts across cell membranes and cell layers, changes in muscle function and generation of pain. These disease processes can be explained by changes in numbers or function of ion channels. Changes in ion channels have been detected in diarrhoeal illnesses, pyelonephritis, allergy, acute lung injury and systemic inflammatory response syndromes involving septic shock. The key role played by changes in ion transport is directly evident in inflammation-induced pain. Expression or function of all major categories of ion channels like sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium, transient receptor potential, purinergic receptor and acid-sensing ion channels can be influenced by cyto- and chemokines, prostaglandins, leukotrienes, histamine, ATP, reactive oxygen species and protons released in inflammation. Key pathways in this interaction are cyclic nucleotide, phosphoinositide and mitogen-activated protein kinase-mediated signalling, direct modification by reactive oxygen species like nitric oxide, ATP or protons and disruption of the cytoskeleton. Therapeutic interventions to modulate the adverse and overlapping effects of the numerous different inflammatory mediators on each ion transport system need to target adversely affected ion transport systems directly and locally.


Ion channels Sodium channel Cytokines Nucleotides Prostaglandin Nitric oxide Histamine 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Luton& Dunstable Hospital NHS Foundation TrustLutonUK
  2. 2.Department of Physiology, School of Biomedical SciencesUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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