Encyclopedia of Neuroscience

2009 Edition
| Editors: Marc D. Binder, Nobutaka Hirokawa, Uwe Windhorst

Neuronal Potassium Channels

  • Alistair Mathie
  • Emma L. Veale
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-29678-2_3922


Potassium (K+) channels are proteins which span the membrane of cells and are selectively permeable to K+ ions.


Potassium (K+) channels are proteins which span the membrane of cells and which, when open, allow the selective flow of K+ ions from one side of the membrane to the other (usually from the inside of the cell to the outside). They can be gated by a variety of stimuli including voltage, changes in intracellular Ca2+ and certain other physiological mediators. In neurons, they have a number of functional roles related, primarily, to the electrical properties of the membrane. As such, they determine the neuronal action potential frequency, shape the neuronal action potential waveform ( Action potential) and control the strength of synaptic contacts between neurons [see 1]. Additionally, certain K+ channels regulate the absolute excitability of neurons and set (or contribute to) the neuronal  resting membrane potential [2] ( Membrane Potential – Basics)....

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.
    Bean BP (2007) The action potential in mammalian central neurons. Nat Rev Neurosci 8:451–465PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hille B (2001) Ion channels of excitable membranes. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland MAGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Ashcroft FM (2000) Ion channels and disease. Academic Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Yu FH, Yarov-Yarovoy V, Gutman GA, Catterall WA (2005) Overview of molecular relationships in the voltage-gated ion channel superfamily. Pharmacol Rev 57:387–395PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Coetzee WA, Amarillo Y, Chiu J, Chow A, Lau D, McCormack T, Moreno H, Nadal MS, Ozaita A, Pountney D, Saganich M, Vega-Saenz de Miera E, Rudy B (1999) Molecular diversity of K channels. Ann NY Acad Sci 868:233–285PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    MacKinnon R (2004) Nobel Lecture: Potassium channels and the atomic basis of selective ion conduction. Biosci Rep 24:75–100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Yellen G (2002) The voltage-gated potassium channels and their relatives. Nature 419:35–42PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Tombola F, Pathak MM, Isacoff RY (2006) How does voltage open an ion channel? Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol 22:23–52PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Song P, Yang Y, Barnes-Davies M, Bhattacharjee A, Hamann M, Forsythe ID, Oliver DL, Kacmarek LK (2005) Acoustic environment determines phosphorylation state of the Kv3.1 potassium channel in auditory neurons. Nat Neurosci 8:1335–1342PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Trimmer JS, Rhodes KJ (2004) Localisation of voltage-gated ion channels in mammalian brain. Annu Rev Physiol 66:477–519PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alistair Mathie
    • 1
  • Emma L. Veale
    • 1
  1. 1.Medway School of PharmacyUniversities of Kent and Greenwich at MedwayKentUK