G-protein mediated gating of inward-rectifier K+ channels

Eur J Biochem. 2000 Oct;267(19):5830-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1432-1327.2000.01670.x.


G-protein regulated inward-rectifier potassium channels (GIRK) are part of a superfamily of inward-rectifier K+ channels which includes seven family members. To date four GIRK subunits, designated GIRK1-4 (also designated Kir3.1-4), have been identified in mammals, and GIRK5 has been found in Xenopus oocytes. GIRK channels exist in vivo both as homotetramers and heterotetramers. In contrast to the other mammalian GIRK family members, GIRK1 can not form functional channels by itself and has to assemble with GIRK2, 3 or 4. As the name implies, GIRK channels are modulated by G-proteins; they are also modulated by phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate, intracellular sodium, ethanol and mechanical stretch. Recently a family of GTPase activating proteins known as regulators of G-protein signaling were shown to be the missing link for the fast deactivation kinetics of GIRK channels in native cells, which contrast with the slow kinetics observed in heterologously expressed channels. GIRK1, 2 and 3 are highly abundant in brain, while GIRK4 has limited distribution. Here, GIRK1/2 seems to be the predominant heterotetramer. In general, neuronal GIRK channels are involved in the regulation of the excitability of neurons and may contribute to the resting potential. Interestingly, only the GIRK1 and 4 subunits are distributed in the atrial and sinoatrial node cells of the heart and are involved in the regulation of cardiac rate. Our main objective of this review is to assess the current understanding of the G-protein modulation of GIRK channels and their physiological importance in mammals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / drug effects
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology*
  • Ion Transport / drug effects
  • Ion Transport / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / drug effects
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate / physiology
  • Potassium / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels / drug effects
  • Potassium Channels / physiology*
  • RGS Proteins / physiology
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Muscarinic / physiology
  • Receptors, Purinergic / drug effects
  • Receptors, Purinergic / physiology
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Virulence Factors, Bordetella / pharmacology
  • Xenopus


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Phosphatidylinositol 4,5-Diphosphate
  • Potassium Channels
  • RGS Proteins
  • Receptors, Muscarinic
  • Receptors, Purinergic
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Virulence Factors, Bordetella
  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Potassium