Bridging the molecular-cellular gap in understanding ion channel clustering

Valerie Abigail Nirenberg, Ofer Yifrach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The clustering of many voltage-dependent ion channel molecules at unique neuronal membrane sites such as axon initial segments, nodes of Ranvier, or the post-synaptic density, is an active process mediated by the interaction of ion channels with scaffold proteins and is of immense importance for electrical signaling. Growing evidence indicates that the density of ion channels at such membrane sites may affect action potential conduction properties and synaptic transmission. However, despite the emerging importance of ion channel density for electrical signaling, how ion channel-scaffold protein molecular interactions lead to cellular ion channel clustering, and how this process is regulated are largely unknown. In this review, we emphasize that voltage-dependent ion channel density at native clustering sites not only affects the density of ionic current fluxes but may also affect the conduction properties of the channel and/or the physical properties of the membrane at such locations, all changes that are expected to affect action potential conduction properties. Using the concrete example of the prototypical Shaker voltage-activated potassium channel (Kv) protein, we demonstrate how insight into the regulation of cellular ion channel clustering can be obtained when the molecular mechanism of ion channel-scaffold protein interaction is known. Our review emphasizes that such mechanistic knowledge is essential, and when combined with super-resolution imaging microscopy, can serve to bridge the molecular-cellular gap in understanding the regulation of ion channel clustering. Pressing questions, challenges and future directions in addressing ion channel clustering and its regulation are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1644
JournalFrontiers in Pharmacology
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Action potential
  • Clustering
  • Coupling
  • Ion channel density
  • Potassium channels
  • Scaffold proteins
  • Sodium channels post-synaptic density-95

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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