G protein-gated inwardly rectifying potassium (GIRK; Kir3) channels, which are members of the large family of inwardly rectifying potassium channels (Kir1-Kir7), regulate excitability in the heart and brain. GIRK channels are activated following stimulation of G protein-coupled receptors that couple to the Gi/o (pertussis toxin-sensitive) G proteins. GIRK channels, like all other Kir channels, possess an extrinsic mechanism of inward rectification involving intracellular Mg2+ and polyamines that occlude the conduction pathway at membrane potentials positive to EK. In the past 17 years, more than 20 high-resolution atomic structures containing GIRK channel cytoplasmic domains and transmembrane domains have been solved. These structures have provided valuable insights into the structural determinants of many of the properties common to all inward rectifiers, such as permeation and rectification, as well as revealing the structural bases for GIRK channel gating. In this chapter, we describe advances in our understanding of GIRK channel function based on recent high-resolution atomic structures of inwardly rectifying K+ channels discussed in the context of classical structure-function experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Review of Neurobiology - Structure to Function of G Protein-Gated Inwardly Rectifying (GIRK) Channels, 2015
EditorsR. Adron Harris, Peter Jenner
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages44
ISBN (Print)9780128024584
StatePublished - 2015

Publication series

NameInternational Review of Neurobiology
ISSN (Print)0074-7742


  • Alcohol
  • Crystal structure
  • Electrophysiology
  • G protein-coupled receptor
  • G protein-gated inwardly rectifying K channel
  • Gating
  • Inhibition
  • Rectification
  • X-ray crystallography


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