Voltage-gated potassium channels at the crossroads of neuronal function, ischemic tolerance, and neurodegeneration

Transl Stroke Res. 2014 Feb;5(1):38-58. doi: 10.1007/s12975-013-0297-7. Epub 2013 Nov 19.


Voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels are widely expressed in the central and peripheral nervous system and are crucial mediators of neuronal excitability. Importantly, these channels also actively participate in cellular and molecular signaling pathways that regulate the life and death of neurons. Injury-mediated increased K(+) efflux through Kv2.1 channels promotes neuronal apoptosis, contributing to widespread neuronal loss in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke. In contrast, some forms of neuronal activity can dramatically alter Kv2.1 channel phosphorylation levels and influence their localization. These changes are normally accompanied by modifications in channel voltage dependence, which may be neuroprotective within the context of ischemic injury. Kv1 and Kv7 channel dysfunction leads to neuronal hyperexcitability that critically contributes to the pathophysiology of human clinical disorders such as episodic ataxia and epilepsy. This review summarizes the neurotoxic, neuroprotective, and neuroregulatory roles of Kv channels and highlights the consequences of Kv channel dysfunction on neuronal physiology. The studies described in this review thus underscore the importance of normal Kv channel function in neurons and emphasize the therapeutic potential of targeting Kv channels in the treatment of a wide range of neurological diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated / metabolism*


  • Potassium Channels, Voltage-Gated