Molecular pathophysiology and pharmacology of the voltage-sensing module of neuronal ion channels

Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Francesco MiceliMaurizio Taglialatela


Voltage-gated ion channels (VGICs) are membrane proteins that switch from a closed to open state in response to changes in membrane potential, thus enabling ion fluxes across the cell membranes. The mechanism that regulate the structural rearrangements occurring in VGICs in response to changes in membrane potential still remains one of the most challenging topic of modern biophysics. Na(+), Ca(2+) and K(+) voltage-gated channels are structurally formed by the assembly of four similar domains, each comprising six transmembrane segments. Each domain can be divided into two main regions: the Pore Module (PM) and the Voltage-Sensing Module (VSM). The PM (helices S5 and S6 and intervening linker) is responsible for gate opening and ion selectivity; by contrast, the VSM, comprising the first four transmembrane helices (S1-S4), undergoes the first conformational changes in response to membrane voltage variations. In particular, the S4 segment of each domain, which contains several positively charged residues interspersed with hydrophobic amino acids, is located within the membrane electric field and plays an essential role in voltage sensing. In neurons, specific gating properties of each channel subtype underlie a variety of biologic...Continue Reading


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