Enzymatic activation of voltage-gated potassium channels

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Voltage-gated ion channels in excitable nerve, muscle, and endocrine cells generate electric signals in the form of action potentials1. However, they are also present in non-excitable eukaryotic cells and prokaryotes, which raises the question of whether voltage-gated channels might be activated by means other than changing the voltage difference between the solutions separated by the plasma membrane. The search for so-called voltage-gated channel activators is motivated in part by the growing importance of such agents in clinical pharmacology. Here we report the apparent activation of voltage-gated K+(Kv) channels by a sphingomyelinase.

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