How to Block a Potassium Channel: Just Add Water

Just 12 molecules of water cause the long post-activation recovery period required by potassium ion channels before they can function again. Using molecular simulations that modeled a potassium channel and its immediate cellular environment, atom for atom, Benoit Roux, PhD, and his colleagues in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology have revealed this new mechanism in the function of a nearly universal biological structure, with implications ranging from fundamental biology to the design of pharmaceuticals. Kevin Jiang has more on the study in our Newsroom:

“Observing this was a complete surprise, but it made a lot of sense in retrospect,” Roux said. “Better understanding of this ubiquitous biological system will change how people think about inactivation and recovery of these channels, and has the potential to someday impact human health.”

Their findings were published online July 28 in Nature. Roux also spoke about this research in our latest podcast episode.

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Ostmeyer J., Chakrapani S., Pan A.C., Perozo E. & Roux B. (2013). Recovery from slow inactivation in K+ channels is controlled by water molecules, Nature, DOI:

About Matt Wood (514 Articles)

Matt Wood is a senior science writer at the University of Chicago Medicine and nonfiction editor for Another Chicago Magazine.

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