The cardiac action potential results from the complex, but precisely regulated, movement of ions across the sarcolemmal membrane. Potassium channels represent the most diverse class of ion channels in heart and are the targets of several antiarrhythmic drugs. Potassium currents in the myocardium can be classified into one of two general categories: 1) inward rectifying currents such as I(Kl), I(KACh), and I(KATP); and 2) primarily voltage-gated currents such as I(Ks), I(Kr), I(Kp), I(Kur), and I(to). The inward rectifier currents regulate the resting membrane potential, whereas the voltage-activated currents control action potential duration. The presence of these multiple, often overlapping, outward currents in native cardiac myocytes has complicated the study of individual K+ channels; however, the application of molecular cloning technology to these cardiovascular K+ channels has identified the primary structure of these proteins, and heterologous expression systems have allowed a detailed analysis of the function and pharmacology of a single channel type. This review addresses the progress made toward understanding the complex molecular physiology of K+ channels in mammalian myocardium. An important challenge for the future is to determine the relative contribution of each of these cloned channels to cardiac function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-67
Number of pages19
JournalPhysiological reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1996


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