Potassium channel

Potassium channel Kv1.2, structure in a membrane-like environment. Calculated hydrocarbon boundaries of the lipid bilayer are indicated by red and blue lines.
Top view of a potassium channel with potassium ions (purple) moving through the pore (in the center).
Crystallographic structure of the bacterial KcsA potassium channel . In this figure, only two of the four subunits of the tetramer are displayed for the sake of clarity. The protein is displayed as a green cartoon diagram. In addition backbone carbonyl groups and threonine sidechain protein atoms (oxygen = red, carbon = green) are displayed. Finally potassium ions (occupying the S2 and S4 sites) and the oxygen atoms of water molecules (S1 and S3) are depicted as purple and red spheres respectively.
Graphical representation of open and shut potassium channels ( and ). Two simple bacterial channels are shown to compare the "open" channel structure on the right with the "closed" structure on the left. At top is the filter (selects potassium ions), and at bottom is the gating domain (controls opening and closing of channel).
Birth of an Idea (2007) by Julian Voss-Andreae. The sculpture was commissioned by Roderick MacKinnon based on the molecule's atomic coordinates that were determined by MacKinnon's group in 2001.

Potassium channels are the most widely distributed type of ion channel and are found in virtually all living organisms.

- Potassium channel

232 related topics


Voltage-gated potassium channel

Potassium channel Kv1.2, structure in a membrane-like environment. Calculated hydrocarbon boundaries of the lipid bilayer are indicated by red and blue lines.

Voltage-gated potassium channels (VGKCs) are transmembrane channels specific for potassium and sensitive to voltage changes in the cell's membrane potential.

Action potential

Action potential occurs when the membrane potential of a specific cell location rapidly rises and falls.

As an action potential (nerve impulse) travels down an axon there is a change in electric polarity across the membrane of the axon. In response to a signal from another neuron, sodium- (Na+) and potassium- (K+) gated ion channels open and close as the membrane reaches its threshold potential. Na+ channels open at the beginning of the action potential, and Na+ moves into the axon, causing depolarization. Repolarization occurs when the K+ channels open and K+ moves out of the axon, creating a change in electric polarity between the outside of the cell and the inside. The impulse travels down the axon in one direction only, to the axon terminal where it signals other neurons.
Shape of a typical action potential. The membrane potential remains near a baseline level until at some point in time, it abruptly spikes upward and then rapidly falls.
Approximate plot of a typical action potential shows its various phases as the action potential passes a point on a cell membrane. The membrane potential starts out at approximately −70 mV at time zero. A stimulus is applied at time = 1 ms, which raises the membrane potential above −55 mV (the threshold potential). After the stimulus is applied, the membrane potential rapidly rises to a peak potential of +40 mV at time = 2 ms. Just as quickly, the potential then drops and overshoots to −90 mV at time = 3 ms, and finally the resting potential of −70 mV is reestablished at time = 5 ms.
Action potential propagation along an axon
Ion movement during an action potential.
Key: a) Sodium (Na+) ion. b) Potassium (K+) ion. c) Sodium channel. d) Potassium channel. e) Sodium-potassium pump. In the stages of an action potential, the permeability of the membrane of the neuron changes. At the resting state (1), sodium and potassium ions have limited ability to pass through the membrane, and the neuron has a net negative charge inside. Once the action potential is triggered, the depolarization (2) of the neuron activates sodium channels, allowing sodium ions to pass through the cell membrane into the cell, resulting in a net positive charge in the neuron relative to the extracellular fluid. After the action potential peak is reached, the neuron begins repolarization (3), where the sodium channels close and potassium channels open, allowing potassium ions to cross the membrane into the extracellular fluid, returning the membrane potential to a negative value. Finally, there is a refractory period (4), during which the voltage-dependent ion channels are inactivated while the Na+ and K+ ions return to their resting state distributions across the membrane (1), and the neuron is ready to repeat the process for the next action potential.
When an action potential arrives at the end of the pre-synaptic axon (top), it causes the release of neurotransmitter molecules that open ion channels in the post-synaptic neuron (bottom). The combined excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials of such inputs can begin a new action potential in the post-synaptic neuron.
In pacemaker potentials, the cell spontaneously depolarizes (straight line with upward slope) until it fires an action potential.
In saltatory conduction, an action potential at one node of Ranvier causes inwards currents that depolarize the membrane at the next node, provoking a new action potential there; the action potential appears to "hop" from node to node.
Comparison of the conduction velocities of myelinated and unmyelinated axons in the cat. The conduction velocity v of myelinated neurons varies roughly linearly with axon diameter d (that is, v ∝ d), whereas the speed of unmyelinated neurons varies roughly as the square root (v ∝√d). The red and blue curves are fits of experimental data, whereas the dotted lines are their theoretical extrapolations.
Cable theory's simplified view of a neuronal fiber. The connected RC circuits correspond to adjacent segments of a passive neurite. The extracellular resistances re (the counterparts of the intracellular resistances ri) are not shown, since they are usually negligibly small; the extracellular medium may be assumed to have the same voltage everywhere.
Electrical synapses between excitable cells allow ions to pass directly from one cell to another, and are much faster than chemical synapses.
Phases of a cardiac action potential. The sharp rise in voltage ("0") corresponds to the influx of sodium ions, whereas the two decays ("1" and "3", respectively) correspond to the sodium-channel inactivation and the repolarizing eflux of potassium ions. The characteristic plateau ("2") results from the opening of voltage-sensitive calcium channels.
Giant axons of the longfin inshore squid (Doryteuthis pealeii) were crucial for scientists to understand the action potential.
As revealed by a patch clamp electrode, an ion channel has two states: open (high conductance) and closed (low conductance).
Tetrodotoxin is a lethal toxin found in pufferfish that inhibits the voltage-sensitive sodium channel, halting action potentials.
Image of two Purkinje cells (labeled as A) drawn by Santiago Ramón y Cajal in 1899. Large trees of dendrites feed into the soma, from which a single axon emerges and moves generally downwards with a few branch points. The smaller cells labeled B are granule cells.
Ribbon diagram of the sodium–potassium pump in its E2-Pi state. The estimated boundaries of the lipid bilayer are shown as blue (intracellular) and red (extracellular) planes.
Equivalent electrical circuit for the Hodgkin–Huxley model of the action potential. Im and Vm represent the current through, and the voltage across, a small patch of membrane, respectively. The Cm represents the capacitance of the membrane patch, whereas the four g's represent the conductances of four types of ions. The two conductances on the left, for potassium (K) and sodium (Na), are shown with arrows to indicate that they can vary with the applied voltage, corresponding to the voltage-sensitive ion channels. The two conductances on the right help determine the resting membrane potential.

This is followed by the opening of potassium ion channels that permit the exit of potassium ions from the cell.

Voltage-gated ion channel

Voltage-gated ion channels are a class of transmembrane proteins that form ion channels that are activated by changes in the electrical membrane potential near the channel.

Ions are depicted by the red circles. A gradient is represented by the different concentration of ions on either side of the membrane. The open conformation of the ion channel allows for the translocation of ions across the cell membrane, while the closed conformation does not.
Conformation of the four homologous domains showing the formation of a central pore

Crystallographic structural studies of a potassium channel have shown that, when a potential difference is introduced over the membrane, the associated electric field induces a conformational change in the potassium channel.

Electrochemical gradient

Gradient of electrochemical potential, usually for an ion that can move across a membrane.

Diagram of ion concentrations and charge across a semi-permeable cellular membrane.
Diagram of the Na+-K+-ATPase.
Diagram of the conformational shift in retinal that initiates proton pumping in bacteriorhodopsin.
Simplified diagram of photophosphorylation.
Detailed diagram of the electron transport chain in mitochondria.

One is TPK3, a potassium channel that is activated by Ca2+ and conducts K+ from the thylakoid lumen to the stroma which helps establish the pH gradient.

Inward-rectifier potassium channel

crystal structure of an inward rectifier potassium channel
Figure 1. Whole-cell current recordings of Kir2 inwardly-rectifying potassium channels expressed in an HEK293 cell. (This is a strongly inwardly rectifying current. Downward deflections are inward currents, upward deflections outward currents, and the x-axis is time in seconds.) There are 13 responses superimposed in this image. The bottom-most trace is current elicited by a voltage step to -60mV, and the top-most to +60mV, relative to the resting potential, which is close to the K+ reversal potential in this experimental system. Other traces are in 10mV increments between the two.

Inward-rectifier potassium channels (Kir, IRK) are a specific lipid-gated subset of potassium channels.

Resting potential

Usually referred to as the ground value for trans-membrane voltage.

The -ATPase, as well as effects of diffusion of the involved ions, are major mechanisms to maintain the resting potential across the membranes of animal cells.
A diagram showing the progression in the development of a membrane potential from a concentration gradient (for potassium). Green arrows indicate net movement of K+ down a concentration gradient. Red arrows indicate net movement of K+ due to the membrane potential. The diagram is misleading in that while the concentration of potassium ions outside of the cell increases, only a small amount of K+ needs to cross the membrane in order to produce a membrane potential with a magnitude large enough to counter the tendency of the potassium ions to move down the concentration gradient.

They have selectivity for certain ions, thus, there are potassium-, chloride-, and sodium-selective ion channels.

Ion channel

Ion channels are pore-forming membrane proteins that allow ions to pass through the channel pore.

Schematic diagram of an ion channel. 1 - channel domains (typically four per channel), 2 - outer vestibule, 3 - selectivity filter, 4 - diameter of selectivity filter, 5 - phosphorylation site, 6 - cell membrane.
Selectivity filter allowing only potassium ions through the potassium channel (PDB: 1K4C).
Birth of an Idea (2007) by Julian Voss-Andreae. The sculpture was commissioned by Roderick MacKinnon based on the molecule's atomic coordinates that were determined by MacKinnon's group in 2001.

Potassium channels


Chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number19.

The flame test of potassium.
Structure of solid potassium superoxide.
Potassium in feldspar
Sir Humphry Davy
Pieces of potassium metal
Sylvite from New Mexico
Monte Kali, a potash mining and beneficiation waste heap in Hesse, Germany, consisting mostly of sodium chloride.
Potassium sulfate/magnesium sulfate fertilizer

The ion transport system moves potassium across the cell membrane using two mechanisms. One is active and pumps sodium out of, and potassium into, the cell. The other is passive and allows potassium to leak out of the cell. Potassium and sodium cations influence fluid distribution between intracellular and extracellular compartments by osmotic forces. The movement of potassium and sodium through the cell membrane is mediated by the Na+/K+-ATPase pump. This ion pump uses ATP to pump three sodium ions out of the cell and two potassium ions into the cell, creating an electrochemical gradient and electromotive force across the cell membrane. The highly selective potassium ion channels (which are tetramers) are crucial for hyperpolarization inside neurons after an action potential is triggered, to cite one example. The most recently discovered potassium ion channel is KirBac3.1, which makes a total of five potassium ion channels (KcsA, KirBac1.1, KirBac3.1, KvAP, and MthK) with a determined structure. All five are from prokaryotic species.

Membrane potential

Basis of Membrane Potential2.png on opposite sides of a cellular membrane lead to a voltage called the membrane potential.

Electric field (arrows) and contours of constant voltage created by a pair of oppositely charged objects. The electric field is at right angles to the voltage contours, and the field is strongest where the spacing between contours is the smallest.
Ions (pink circles) will flow across a membrane from the higher concentration to the lower concentration (down a concentration gradient), causing a current. However, this creates a voltage across the membrane that opposes the ions' motion. When this voltage reaches the equilibrium value, the two balance and the flow of ions stops.
The cell membrane, also called the plasma membrane or plasmalemma, is a semipermeable lipid bilayer common to all living cells. It contains a variety of biological molecules, primarily proteins and lipids, which are involved in a vast array of cellular processes.
Facilitated diffusion in cell membranes, showing ion channels and carrier proteins
The sodium-potassium pump uses energy derived from ATP to exchange sodium for potassium ions across the membrane.
Despite the small differences in their radii, ions rarely go through the "wrong" channel. For example, sodium or calcium ions rarely pass through a potassium channel.
Depiction of the open potassium channel, with the potassium ion shown in purple in the middle, and hydrogen atoms omitted. When the channel is closed, the passage is blocked.
Ligand-gated calcium channel in closed and open states
Equivalent circuit for a patch of membrane, consisting of a fixed capacitance in parallel with four pathways each containing a battery in series with a variable conductance
Reduced circuit obtained by combining the ion-specific pathways using the Goldman equation
Graph displaying an EPSP, an IPSP, and the summation of an EPSP and an IPSP

For example, potassium channels and calcium-sensing receptors are important regulators of excitability in neurons, cardiac myocytes and many other excitable cells like astrocytes.


Chemical element with the symbol Ba and atomic number 56.

Oxidized barium
Sir Humphry Davy, who first isolated barium metal
Benitoite crystals on natrolite. The mineral is named for the San Benito River in San Benito County where it was first found.
Amoebiasis as seen in a radiograph of a barium-filled colon
Green barium fireworks

This toxicity may be caused by Ba2+ blocking potassium ion channels, which are critical to the proper function of the nervous system.