The KCNQ1 channel (also called Kv7.1 or KvLQT1) belongs to the superfamily of voltage-gated K+ (Kv) channels. KCNQ1 shares several general features with other Kv channels but also displays a fascinating flexibility in terms of the mechanism of channel gating, which allows KCNQ1 to play different physiological roles in different tissues. This flexibility allows KCNQ1 channels to function as voltage-independent channels in epithelial tissues, whereas KCNQ1 function as voltage-activated channels with very slow kinetics in cardiac tissues. This flexibility is in part provided by the association of KCNQ1 with different accessory KCNE β-subunits and different modulators, but also seems like an integral part of KCNQ1 itself. The aim of this review is to describe the main mechanisms underlying KCNQ1 flexibility.
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