Ion channel receptors, more commonly known as ion channels, are multimeric pore-forming membrane proteins. Ion channels function to establish a membrane potential by opening and closing their passageway to control the flow of ions across the membrane. Ions flow through the channels down the electrochemical gradient, which differentiates them from ion pumps/transporters, which actively move ions against the electrochemical gradient.
Ion channels can be sorted into types based on the method of gating and/or by the type of ion that passes through the channel.
Voltage-gated channels respond to the membrane potential to control the flow of ions through the channel. Ligand-gated channels open in response to the binding of a specific ligand to the receptor protein located in the extracellular space.
Most ion channels are also highly-selective for the type of ion that passes through the channel, therefore they can be easily grouped as either calcium channels, chloride channels, potassium channels, proton channels, sodium channels, or non-selective cation channels.
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