The nervous system contains a large diversity of potassium channels, the membrane proteins that regulate the movement of potassium ions across the cell membrane. All potassium channels have a similar ionic selectivity for potassium ions but vary in how, when, and for how long their pore is open. K + channel diversity is one of the main factors contributing to the dynamic, electrophysiological identity of neurons and to the functional specificity of the modulatory actions of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. This article reviews the K + channels for which the opening of the pore is controlled by the electrical membrane potential and discusses what has been learned about the contribution of each channel type to neuronal function.
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