G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK) channels are essential regulators of cell excitability in the brain. While they are implicated in a variety of neurological diseases in both human and animal model studies, their therapeutic potential has been largely untapped. Here, we review recent advances in the development of small molecule compounds that specifically modulate GIRK channels and compare them with first-generation compounds that exhibit off-target activity. We describe the method of discovery of these small molecule modulators, their chemical features, and their effects in vivo. These studies provide a promising outlook on the future development of subunit-specific GIRK modulators to regulate neuronal excitability in a brain region-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-215
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Pharmacological Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium channel
  • addiction
  • alcoholism
  • neurological disease
  • small molecule modulator


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