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Ion channels play prominent roles in organisms. For example, ion channels are in action when the organism registers stimuli and passes the information on to the brain in the form of electric signals. During this signal transmission, charged atoms (ions) must enter and leave the involved cells. Ions cannot permeate lipophilic cell membranes. Instead, they pass through protein channels in the cell membranes.
In many cases, the ion channels allow the passage of only one specific ion type, i.e. they may be conductive for potassium but not for sodium ions or vice versa. The selectivity filter that is the narrowest part of the channel is responsible for this ion discrimination. However, the NaK channel allows for the passage of both sodium and potassium ions. It was in the focus of the present study by FMP scientists around Dr. Han Sun and Professor Adam Lange together with colleagues in Göttingen (Germany) and Hefei (China).
Ion - Channels - Medicine
Non-selective ion channels are very important in medicine.
Until now, it has remained controversial why NaK channels allow for the passage of both sodium and potassium ions. Professor Adam Lange explains: "While X-ray crystallographic images showed us the three-dimensional structure of the channel, it was difficult to explain why this channel is conductive to two different ion types with similarly high efficiency. This was particularly hard to understand because the sequence and the 3-D structure of the selectivity filter are similar to the ones in potassium selective channels."
Scientist - Dr - Han - Sun - System
Scientist Dr. Han Sun added that the investigated system is a model system for several other non-selective ion channels in the human body. As she pointed out, physiologically and medically relevant in this context are the cyclic nucleotide-gated and hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channels (CNG and HCN channels):...
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