Molecular properties and physiological roles of ion channels in the immune system

J Clin Immunol. 2001 Jul;21(4):235-52. doi: 10.1023/a:1010958907271.


The discovery of a diverse and unique set of ion channels in T lymphocytes has led to a rapidly growing body of knowledge about their functional roles in the immune system. Here we review the biophysical and molecular characterization of K+, Ca2+, and Cl- channels in T lymphocytes. Potent and specific blockers, especially of K+ channels, have provided molecular tools to elucidate the involvement of voltage- and calcium-activated potassium channels in T-cell activation and cell-volume regulation. Their unique and differential expression makes lymphocyte K+ channels excellent pharmaceutical targets for modulating immune system function. This review surveys recent progress at the biophysical, molecular, and functional roles of the ion channels found in T lymphocytes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Electrophysiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / chemistry
  • Ion Channels / genetics
  • Ion Channels / immunology*
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Models, Biological
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Potassium Channels / genetics
  • Potassium Channels / immunology
  • Potassium Channels / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Signal Transduction
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / physiology


  • Ion Channels
  • Potassium Channels