How membrane proteins sense voltage

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Apr;9(4):323-32. doi: 10.1038/nrm2376.


The ionic gradients across cell membranes generate a transmembrane voltage that regulates the function of numerous membrane proteins such as ion channels, transporters, pumps and enzymes. The mechanisms by which proteins sense voltage is diverse: ion channels have a conserved, positively charged transmembrane region that moves in response to changes in membrane potential, some G-protein coupled receptors possess a specific voltage-sensing motif and some membrane pumps and transporters use the ions that they transport across membranes to sense membrane voltage. Characterizing the general features of voltage sensors might lead to the discovery of further membrane proteins that are voltage regulated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Membrane Potentials*
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Potassium Channels / chemistry
  • Potassium Channels / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Potassium Channels
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled