Ion channels play an important role in the communication of an organism. These proteins form small pores in the cell membrane allowing charged particles like potassium or sodium ions to flow into and out of the cell. In so doing, they confer, amongst other things, the electrical activity of nerve and muscle cells. The malfunction of ion channels might have serious health effects. That is why it is necessary to understand their structure and function. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Metal Research in Stuttgart and their colleagues from the Rush Medical School in Chicago and the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami have identified a physical mechanism that gives a new explanation as to how ion channels open and close.
Original publication: Roland Roth, Dirk Gillespie, Wolfgang Nonner, Bob Eisenberg. Bubbles, Gating, and Anesthetics in Ion Channels. Biophys. Journal BioFAST, 30 January 2008