Introduction to ion channels

Chiara Di Resta, Andrea Becchetti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Ion channels are integral membrane proteins that contain pathways through which ions can flow. By shifting between closed and open conformational states ('gating' process), they control passive ion flow through the plasma membrane. Channels can be gated by membrane potential, or specific ligands, or other agents, such as mechanical stimuli. The efficacy of the gating process and the kinetics of subsequent inactivation or desensitization are regulated by intracellular mechanisms. Many types of membrane channels exist, with different degrees of ion selectivity. By controlling ion fluxes, they typically regulate membrane potential and excitability, shape the action potential, trigger muscle contraction and exocytosis (through Ca2+ influx), regulate cell volume and many other cellular processes. In the first part of the chapter, we give a brief introduction to the main physiological aspects of ion channels, which may not be familiar to molecular biologists. Subsequently, as a reference for later chapters, we summarize the main structural and functional features of the channel-proteins presently known to be related to integrin receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
ISSN (Print)00652598

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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