Ion conduction and selectivity in K(+) channels

Annu Rev Biophys Biomol Struct. 2005;34:153-71. doi: 10.1146/annurev.biophys.34.040204.144655.


Potassium (K(+)) channels are tetrameric membrane-spanning proteins that provide a selective pore for the conductance of K(+) across the cell membranes. These channels are most remarkable in their ability to discriminate K(+) from Na(+) by more than a thousandfold and conduct at a throughput rate near diffusion limit. The recent progress in the structural characterization of K(+) channel provides us with a unique opportunity to understand their function at the atomic level. With their ability to go beyond static structures, molecular dynamics simulations based on atomic models can play an important role in shaping our view of how ion channels carry out their function. The purpose of this review is to summarize the most important findings from experiments and computations and to highlight a number of fundamental mechanistic questions about ion conduction and selectivity that will require further work.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / chemistry
  • Binding Sites
  • Biological Transport
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Biophysics
  • Carbon / chemistry
  • Cations
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Humans
  • Ions*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Potassium / chemistry
  • Potassium Channels / chemistry*
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds / chemistry
  • Sodium / chemistry
  • Static Electricity
  • Thermodynamics
  • X-Rays


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cations
  • Ions
  • Peptides
  • Potassium Channels
  • Quaternary Ammonium Compounds
  • Carbon
  • Sodium
  • Potassium