Hundreds of different types of ion channels have been discovered. Due to limit in experimental techniques, functions of many ion channels are still waiting for exploration. Ion channels can be classified by their ion permeability, such as K+ channel, Na+ channel, Ca2+ channel, Cl- channel, and non-selective cation channel. Ion channels can also be divided according to the type of stimuli they respond to, such as voltage-gated ion channel (open and close in response to membrane potential) and ligand-gated ion channel (open and close in response to specific ligand molecules). Ion channel constitutes a key component in a wide variety of biological processes such as muscle contraction and nerve conduction. Up to now, approximately 20% of the registered drugs target ion channels.
Ion channels are pore-forming proteins that are embedded in the membranes of all living organisms, responsible for extracellular and intracellular electrical signaling. As electrical signaling is vital for many physiological activities, ion channel becomes an important target for novel drug development.
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