Ion channel complexes are challenging to study by traditional biochemical methods due to their membranous lipid environment and large size. Bioreactive tethers are specialized chemical probes that have been used in electrophysiological experiments to provide unique insight into ion channel structure and function. Because bioreactive tethers are small molecular probes, they can be used to manipulate ion channel function in heterologous expression systems, native cells and animal models. This chapter covers three classes of tethers: photoswitchable, molecular rulers, and chemically reactive. The modular nature of bioreactive tethers enables the facile synthesis of next generation reagents with enhanced functionalities to interrogate and control ion channels in novel and multifarious ways.
Keywords: Azobenzene; Cysteine chemistry; Ion channel blockers; Ligands; Protein derivatization; Quaternary ammonium compounds.