Potassium channels contribute to the excitability of neurons and signaling in the nervous system. They arise from multiple gene families including one for voltage-gated potassium channels and one for inwardly rectifying potassium channels. Features of potassium permeation, channel gating and regulation, and subunit interaction have been analyzed. Potassium channels of similar design have been found in animals ranging from jellyfish to humans, as well as in plants, yeast, and bacteria. Structural similarities are evident for the pore-forming alpha subunits and for the beta subunits, which could potentially regulate channel activity according to the level of energy and/or reducing power of the cell.