K2P Potassium Channels, Mysterious and Paradoxically Exciting

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Science Signaling  26 Jul 2011:
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2002225


New evidence reveals that the common electrolyte disorder hypokalemia can induce K2P1 channels that are normally selective for K+ to break the rules and conduct Na+. This defiant behavior leads to paradoxical depolarization of many cells in the heart, increasing the risk for lethal arrhythmia. The new research resolves a mystery uncovered 50 years ago and bestows an array of new riddles. I discuss here how K2P1 might achieve this alchemy—through stable residence of the K+ selectivity filter in a Na+-conductive state between its open and C-inactive configurations—and predict that other K+ channels and environmental stimuli will be discovered to produce the same excitatory misconduct.

Full article available 2 August 2011, Vol. 4, Issue 184, pp. pe35