- Top of page
- The mechanism of inward-rectification
- Structural determinants of inward rectification
- Physiological role of rectification
Inward-rectifier potassium (Kir) channels comprise a superfamily of potassium (K+) channels with unique structural and functional properties. Expressed in virtually all types of cells they are responsible for setting the resting membrane potential, controlling the excitation threshold and secreting K+ ions. All Kir channels present an inwardly rectifying current–voltage relation, meaning that at any given driving force the inward flow of K+ ions exceeds the outward flow for the opposite driving force. This inward-rectification is due to a voltage-dependent block of the channel pore by intracellular polyamines and magnesium. The present molecular–biophysical understanding of inward-rectification and its physiological consequences is the topic of this review. In addition to polyamines, Kir channels are gated by intracellular protons, G-proteins, ATP and phospholipids depending on the respective Kir subfamily as detailed in the following review articles.