Modular assembly of voltage-gated channel proteins: a sequence analysis and phylogenetic study

J Mol Microbiol Biotechnol. 1999 Nov;1(2):281-7.


Voltage-sensitive cation-selective ion channels of the voltage-gated ion channel (VGC) superfamily were examined by a combination of sequence alignment and phylogenetic tree construction procedures. Segments of the alpha-subunits of K+-selective channels homologous to the structurally elucidated KcsA channel of Streptomyces lividans were multiply aligned, and this alignment provided the database for computer-assisted structural analyses and phylogenetic tree construction. Similar analyses were conducted with the four homologous repeats of the alpha-subunits from representative Ca2+- and Na+-selective channels, as well as with the ensemble of K+, Ca2+ and Na+ channels. In both the single subunit of the K+ channels and the individual repeats of the Ca2+ and Na+ channels, the analyses suggest the occurrence of at least two tandemly arranged modules corresponding to the predicted voltage-sensor domain and the pore domain. The phylogenetic analyses reveal strict clustering of segments according to cation-selectivity and repeat unit. We surmise that the pore module of the prokaryotic K+ channel was the primordial polypeptide upon which other modules were superimposed during evolution in order to generate phenotypic diversity. These observations may prove applicable to all members of the VGC family yet to be discovered throughout the prokaryotic and eukaryotic kingdoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / analysis
  • Calcium Channels / classification*
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Potassium Channels / analysis
  • Potassium Channels / classification*
  • Sequence Analysis
  • Sodium Channels / analysis
  • Sodium Channels / classification*


  • Calcium Channels
  • Potassium Channels
  • Sodium Channels