Kv1.1 belongs to the Shaker subfamily of voltage-gated potassium channels and acts as a critical regulator of neuronal excitability in the central and peripheral nervous systems. KCNA1 is the only gene that has been associated with episodic ataxia type 1 (EA1), an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by ataxia and myokymia and for which different and variable phenotypes have now been reported. The iterative characterization of channel defects at the molecular, network, and organismal levels contributed to elucidating the functional consequences of KCNA1 mutations and to demonstrate that ataxic attacks and neuromyotonia result from cerebellum and motor nerve alterations. Dysfunctions of the Kv1.1 channel have been also associated with epilepsy and kcna1 knock-out mouse is considered a model of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. The tissue-specific association of Kv1.1 with other Kv1 members, auxiliary and interacting subunits amplifies Kv1.1 physiological roles and expands the pathogenesis of Kv1.1-associated diseases. In line with the current knowledge, Kv1.1 has been proposed as a novel and promising target for the treatment of brain disorders characterized by hyperexcitability, in the attempt to overcome limited response and side effects of available therapies. This review recounts past and current studies clarifying the roles of Kv1.1 in and beyond the nervous system and its contribution to EA1 and seizure susceptibility as well as its wide pharmacological potential.
Keywords: Kv1.1 potassium channel; SUDEP; acetazolamide; ataxic mouse; channel modulators; epilepsy; episodic ataxia type 1; knock-out mouse; sodium channel blockers.