Ion channels and lymphocyte activation

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The ion channels expressed by T lymphocytes play key roles in the control of the membrane potential and calcium signaling, thereby affecting signal transduction pathways that lead to the activation of these cells following antigenic stimulation. Disruption of these pathways can attenuate or prevent the response of T-cells to antigenic challenge resulting in immune suppression. Studies using ion channel blockers of high affinity and specificity have shown that this interference can be achieved at the level of ion channels. Suppression of immune functions by channel blockers has been demonstrated in vitro and in vivo. New information about the molecular structure of ion channels facilitates the design of more potent and more specific inhibitors. Thus, T-cell ion channels are likely to serve as targets for immunomodulatory drugs in the near future. Here, the biophysical properties, tissue distribution, regulation of expression, molecular pharmacology and role in T-cell activation of the voltage-gated Kv1.3 and the Ca2+-activated IKCa1 potassium channels and those of the Ca+ release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channel are reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-66
Number of pages12
JournalImmunology letters
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 29 2004



  • 1,4,5-inositol trisphosphate
  • CRAC
  • Ca release-activated Ca channel
  • Cyclic ADP-ribose
  • Cytosolic free Ca concentration
  • IL-2
  • IP
  • IP R
  • Interleukin-2
  • [Ca]
  • cADPr

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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