Phylogeny of ion channels: clues to structure and function

Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2001 May;129(1):17-28. doi: 10.1016/s1096-4959(01)00376-1.


Voltage-gated ion channels are responsible for the electrical activity in a variety of cell types in modern-day animals. However, they represent the result of many millions of years of evolution of a family of ion channel proteins that are also found in prokaryotes and diverse eukaryotes, and probably exist in all life forms. This review traces the evolution of ion channels, with particular emphasis on the factors and evolutionary pathways that may have given rise to voltage-gated potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+), and sodium (Na+) channels. The review also highlights the utility of comparing phylogenetically distinct versions of the same protein as a means to better understand the structure and function of proteins.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Ion Channels / chemistry*
  • Ion Channels / genetics*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Potassium Channels / genetics
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sodium Channels / genetics
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Calcium Channels
  • Ion Channels
  • Potassium Channels
  • Sodium Channels