Modulation of calcium-activated potassium channels

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2002 Mar;188(2):79-87. doi: 10.1007/s00359-002-0281-2. Epub 2002 Jan 29.


Potassium currents play a critical role in action potential repolarization, setting of the resting membrane potential, control of neuronal firing rates, and regulation of neurotransmitter release. The diversity of the potassium channels that generate these currents is nothing less than staggering. This diversity is generated by multiple genes (as many as 100 and perhaps more in some creatures) encoding the pore-forming channel alpha subunits, alternative splicing of channel gene transcripts, formation of heteromultimeric channels, participation of auxiliary (non-pore-forming) beta and other subunits, and modulation of channel properties by post-translational modifications and other mechanisms. Prominent among the potassium channels are several families of calcium activated potassium channels, which are highly selective for potassium ions as their charge carrier, and require intracellular calcium for channel gating. The modulation of one of these families, that of the large conductance calcium activated and voltage-dependent potassium channels, has been especially widely studied. In this review we discuss a few selected examples of the modulation of these channels, to illustrate some of the molecular mechanisms and physiological consequences of ion channel modulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology*
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • Nitric Oxide / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation
  • Polyamines / pharmacology
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated / genetics
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated / physiology*


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • Polyamines
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Ethanol