Voltage & Ligand Gated Ion Channel Function
Ion channels are pore-forming proteins that help to establish and control the small voltage gradient that exists across the plasma membrane of all living cells by allowing the flow of ions down their electrochemical gradient. The normal operation of cells in the central and peripheral nervous systems as well as the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems require ion channels. In addition, ion channels in the membranes of intracellular organelles are important for regulating cytoplasmic calcium concentration and acidification of specific subcellular compartments, such as lysosomes.
Ion channels play an important role in cell signaling, electrical excitability, and fluid transport, and are validated drug targets for diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and migraine. They play a vital role in neuronal signal transduction, neurotransmitter release, muscle contraction, cell secretion, enzyme activation, signal transduction, and gene transcription. To date, more than 300 different human ion channel genes have been identified.
Ion channels can be grouped into two classes, voltage- and ligand- gated channels, and can exist in multiple states such as the closed, open, and inactivated states. Voltage-gated ion channels transition between these states in response to changes in membrane potential, while ligand-gated channels transition between these states in response to the binding and unbinding of a ligand. In the open state, ions can flow through a single ion channel pore at rates of over 107 ions per second.
Traditional methods for studies of ion channel function, such as binding, ion flux, and fluorescent probes, measure ion channel activity indirectly. Patch clamp electrophysiology is regarded as the gold standard for measuring ion channel activity directly. Traditional methods enable real time measurement of ion channels, but are low throughput and require a high degree of operator skill. Newer, automated patch clamp systems deliver higher throughput and are accessible to a broader range of laboratories.
Molecular Devices offers a full range of equipment for traditional patch clamp as well as a line of automated patch clamp systems. In addition, Molecular Devices offers one of the widest range of analytical technologies for life sciences research available today, including systems for microplate-based and label-free analysis. Please use the links below to learn more.