Electrical excitability in our body is mediated by ion channels. Ion channels are pore forming membrane proteins selectively passing either sodium, potassium, calcium or chloride ions. They occur as large families of related genes with cell-specific expression patterns. Ion channels are important targets for many different classes of drugs such as antiarrhythmics (sodium potassium calcium channels), benzodiazepines (GABA-A channels), local anaesthetics (sodium channels), antihypertensives (calcium channels), antiepileptics (sodium, calcium channels) and many others.
Voltage-gated ion channels open when the membrane potential changes whereas ligand-gated channels open upon interaction with a hormone or neurotransmitter. To understand how ion channels open and close we apply biophysical (two microelectrode voltage clamp, patch clamp technique) and molecular biological techniques (directed mutagenesis). Several disease states are related to dysfunctional ion channels. Among prominent groups are cardiac arrhythmias, diabetes, hypertension, angina pectoris, migraine and epilepsy.
Supported by FWF grants P19614 and P22600.