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Recent advances in our understanding of the structure and function of more unusual cation channels


As their name implies, cation channels allow the regulated flow of cations such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium across cellular and intracellular membranes. Cation channels have long been known for their fundamental roles in controlling membrane potential and excitability in neurons and muscle. In this review, we provide an update on the recent advances in our understanding of the structure-function relationship and the physiological and pathophysiological role of cation channels. The most exciting developments in the last two years, in our opinion, have been the insights that cryoelectron microscopy has provided into the inner life and the gating of not only voltage-gated channels but also mechanosensitive and calcium- or sodium-activated channels. The mechanosensitive Piezo channels especially have delighted the field not only with a fascinating new type of structure but with important roles in blood pressure regulation and lung function.

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