Biochemistry Online: An Approach Based on Chemical Logic

Biochemistry Online





Learning Goals/Objectives for Chapter 9B:
After class and this reading, students will be able to

  • describe how a transmembrane ion gradient and nongated/gated membrane ion channels specific for given ions can give rise to a transmembrane electric potential across membranes
  • given ion concentrations and the electrical potential across a membrane, predict likely changes in the membrane potential and ion concentrations on the opening of specific channnels;
  • use the Goldman equation to predict transmembrane electrical potentials;
  • state difference between the communication across the neuromuscular junction and a synapse between two neurons;
  • state the difference between nongated and gated ion channels;
  • describe different ways to open/close gated ion channels
  • describe the immediate changes in the muscle cells when acetylcholine is released into the neuromuscular junction
  • describe the roles of stimulatory neurotransmitter receptors, voltage-gated Na+and K+ channels and the Na/K-ATPase  in the activation of a neuron;
  • explain the mechanism for selectivity of K+ over the smaller Na+ ion in the K+ channel;
  • briefly explain how membrane protein channels can be gated open by changes in transmembrane potential;

B14.  Links and References

Ion channels for beginners.

MetaNeuron: a dowloadable program to simulate neural activity (from the U.MN)

Ion Channels. Org

Ligand-Gated Ion Channel Database

Senomyx: Flavors and Taste Receptors

Animation:  Comparison of direct and indirect neurotransmitter actions, ligand-gated vs. G-protein-coupled receptor.


  1. Sobolevsky, A. et al. X-ray structure, symmetry and mechanism of an AMPA-subtype glutamate receptor. Nature 462, 729, 745 (2009)

  2. Xie, Xinan et al. Nicotine binding to brain receptors requires a strong cation-π interaction.  Nature doi:10.1038/nature07768 (published March 09)

  3. Sarah C. R. Lummis, Darren L. Beene, Lori W. Lee, Henry A. Lester, R. William Broadhurst, Dennis A. Dougherty.  Cis/trans isomerization at a proline opens the pore of a neurotransmitter-gated ion channel. 438, 248 - 252 (2005),

  4. Everts, S. Neuron Activation.  C&E News.  44, Oct 2, 2006

  5. Huang, A.  et al. The cells and logic for mammalian sour taste detection.  Nature 442, pg 934 (2006)

  6. Long, S. B. et al. Crystal Structure of a mammalian voltage-dependent Shaker family K+ Channel. Science 309, 897 (2005); Long, S. B. et al. Voltage Sensor of KV1.2: Structural Basis of Electromechanical Coupling.

  7. Kung, C. A possible unifying principle for mechanosensation.  Nature 436, 647 (2005)

  8. Oliver, D. et al. Functional Conversion Between A-Type and Delayed Rectifier K+ Channels by Membrane Lipids. Science.  304, pg 265 (2004)
  9. Davies, A. et al. A Central Role of the BK Potassium Channel in Behavioral Response to Ethanol in C. Elegans.  Cell, 115, pg 655 (2003)
  10. Miyazawa, A. et al. Structure and Gating mechanism of the acetylcholine receptor pore.  Nature, 423, pg 949 (2003)
  11. Jiang, Y, MacKinnon, R. et al. X-ray structure of a voltage-dependent K+ channel.  Nature. 423, pg 33 (2003); The Principle of gating charge movement in a voltage-dependent K+ channel. Nature. 423, pg 42 (2003)
  12. Kandel et al. Principles of Neural Science, 3rd edition. Elsevier (1991).  This is the source for much of the material in this section.
  13. Schumacher and Adelman.  An Open and Shut Case.  (summairzing work on Ca2+-gated K channel from MacKinnon's lab) Nature.  417, pg 501 (2002)
  14. Sun et al. Mechanism of glutamate receptor desenitiziation.  Nature. 238. pg 238, 245 (2002)
  15. Dutzler et. al. X-ray structure of a CIC Chloride Channel at 3.0 Angstroms Reveals the molecular basis of anion selectivity.  Nature. 415, pg 276, 287 (2002)
  16. Berneche et al. Energetics of Ion Conductions Through the K+ Channel.   (use of dynamics)  Nature. 414 p 23, 73 (2001)
  17. Sixma et al..  Snails, synapses, and smokers (nicotine/receptor). Nautre, 411, pg 252 (2001)
  18. MacKinnon et al. 50 Years of Inactivation (How K+ channels are closed). Nature. 411, pg 643, 657 (2001)
  19. McGaugh, J. Memory - a century of consolidation.  Science. 287. pg 248 (2000)
  20. Wilson et al.  Cannabinoids act backward.  (drugs that control signaling from cannabinoids)  Nature. 410, pg 527, 588 (2001)
  21. McGaugh. Memory - A century of consolidation. Science. pg 248 (2000)
  22. Olney et al. How alcohol damages the brain (Fetal alcohol syndrome).  Science. 287, pg 947, 1056 (2000)
  23. Hardy et al. Genetic Classification of Primary Neurodegenerative Disease.  Science 282, pg 1075 (1998)
  24. Greenberg et al. Learning more about the NMDA receptor regulation (involved in learning and memory).  Science. 295. pg 449, 491 (2002)
  25. Meshorer et el. Alternative Splicing and neuritic mRNA translocation under long-term neuronal hypersensitivity (in PTSD) Science. 295. pg 508 (2002)


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