Journal of Bioenergetics and Biomembranes

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 231–253 | Cite as

Molecular properties of voltage-gated K+ channels

  • J. Oliver Dolly
  • David N. Parcej


Subfamilies of voltage-activated K+ channels (Kv1-4) contribute to controlling neuron excitability and the underlying functional parameters. Genes encoding the multiple α subunits from each of these protein groups have been cloned, expressed and the resultant distinct K+ currents characterized. The predicted amino acid sequences showed that each α subunit contains six putative membrane-spanning α-helical segments (S1-6), with one (S4) being deemed responsible for the channels' voltage sensing. Additionally, there is an H5 region, of incompletely defined structure, that traverses the membrane and forms the ion pore; residues therein responsible for K+ selectivity have been identified. Susceptibility of certain K+ currents produced by the Shaker-related subfamily (Kv1) to inhibition by α-dendrotoxin has allowed purification of authentic K+ channels from mammalian brain. These are large (Mr ∼ 400 kD), octomeric sialoglycoproteins composed of α and Β subunits in a stoichiometry of (α)4(Β)4, with subtypes being created by combinations of subunit isoforms. Subsequent cloning of the genes for Β1, Β2 and Β3 subunits revealed novel sequences for these hydrophilic proteins that are postulated to be associated with the α subunits on the inner side of the membrane. Coexpression of Β1 and Kv1.4 subunits demonstrated that this auxiliary Β protein accelerates the inactivation of the K+ current, a striking effect mediated by an N-terminal moiety. Models are presented that indicate the functional domains pinpointed in the channel proteins.

Key words

Dendrotoxins K+ channels K+ current activation K+ current inactivation K+ filter/pore Shaker α and Β-subunit 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Oliver Dolly
    • 1
  • David N. Parcej
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryImperial CollegeLondonUK

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