Standard Article

Sodium Channels

  1. Walter Stühmer

Published Online: 30 MAY 2001

DOI: 10.1038/npg.els.0000127



How to Cite

Stühmer, W. 2001. Sodium Channels. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. Max-Planck-Institute for Experimental Medicine, Göttingen, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 MAY 2001

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Biological cells are surrounded by an electrical insulating membrane and have a negative intracellular potential. The energy required to generate this potential difference is efficiently obtained through metabolic energy, which establishes a gradient of ions across membranes. Nature has developed miniature batteries that use this gradient to generate a membrane potential in the form of molecules called ion channels. Sodium channels use the sodium ion gradient to generate positive membrane potentials. Furthermore, generation and conduction of the nervous impulse is based on ionic gradients, as is the generation of electrical discharges used by electric fish to stun their prey while hunting.


  • excitability;
  • ion channels;
  • membrane protein