Table of Contents
New Journal of Science
Volume 2014, Article ID 237431, 26 pages
Review Article

Biology of the KCNQ1 Potassium Channel

Bioelectricity Laboratory, Department of Pharmacology and Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine, University of California, 360 Med Surge II, Irivine, CA 92697, USA

Received 5 September 2013; Accepted 22 November 2013; Published 29 January 2014

Academic Editor: Lydie Combaret

Copyright © 2014 Geoffrey W. Abbott. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Ion channels are essential for basic cellular function and for processes including sensory perception and intercellular communication in multicellular organisms. Voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels facilitate dynamic cellular repolarization during an action potential, opening in response to membrane depolarization to facilitate K+ efflux. In both excitable and nonexcitable cells other, constitutively active, K+ channels provide a relatively constant repolarizing force to control membrane potential, ion homeostasis, and secretory processes. Of the forty known human Kv channel pore-forming α subunits that coassemble in various combinations to form the fundamental tetrameric channel pore and voltage sensor module, KCNQ1 is unique. KCNQ1 stands alone in having the capacity to form either channels that are voltage-dependent and require membrane depolarization for activation, or constitutively active channels. In mammals, KCNQ1 regulates processes including gastric acid secretion, thyroid hormone biosynthesis, salt and glucose homeostasis, and cell volume and in some species is required for rhythmic beating of the heart. In this review, the author discusses the unique functional properties, regulation, cell biology, diverse physiological roles, and involvement in human disease states of this chameleonic K+ channel.