Background: Voltage gated Na(+) channels (VGSCs) contain a pore-forming alpha subunit and one or more beta subunits. VGSCs are involved in a wide variety of pathophysiologies, including epilepsy, cardiac arrhythmia, multiple sclerosis, periodic paralysis, migraine, neuropathic and inflammatory pain, Huntington's disease and cancer. Increasing evidence implicates the beta subunits as key players in these disorders.
Objective: To review the recent literature describing the multifunctional roles of VGSC beta subunits in the context of their role(s) in disease.
Methods: An extensive review of the literature on beta subunits.
Results/conclusion: beta subunits are multifunctional. As components of VGSC complexes, beta subunits mediate signaling processes regulating electrical excitability, adhesion, migration, pathfinding and transcription. beta subunits may prove useful in disease diagnosis and therapy.