In higher plants, potassium channels of the Shaker family have been shown to play crucial roles in the uptake of K(+) from the soil solution and subsequent transport of this ion at the cell, tissue, and organ levels. In the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, this family is composed of nine members, which are the best characterized among plant channels at the protein, gene, and functional property levels. Plant Shaker channels share a common structure: a hydrophobic core composed of six transmembrane segments, a long cytoplasmic C-terminal region harboring a putative cyclic nucleotide binding domain, and a K(HA) domain. Many channels also contain an ankyrin domain between the putative cyclic nucleotide binding domain and the K(HA) domain. The analysis of 44 Shaker channels from plants revealed a five-group classification. The members of each group share high sequence and structure similarities. This grouping also correlates with the diversification of the functional properties of the proteins, as members of an individual group have roughly the same electrophysiological characteristics. Analysis of the intron positions showed that the gene structures are also quite well conserved within the five groups. A correlation linking the evolution of the sequences and the positioning of the introns was established. Finally, a moss sequence provided additional clues about the hypothetical structure of an ancestor of the present channels and suggested that the diversification of plant Shaker channels happened before the separation of monocots and dicots and after the separation of bryophytes and tracheophytes.