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Galvani’s SparkThe Story of the Nerve Impulse$
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Alan McComas

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199751754

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199751754.001.0001

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The Single Ion Channel

The Single Ion Channel

(p.269) 19 The Single Ion Channel
Galvani’s Spark

Alan J. McComas

Oxford University Press

A “gating” current, predicted by the Hodgkin-Huxley equations twenty years earlier, is finally detected in the squid giant axon. Soon after, Bert Sakmann and Erwin Neher develop a patch clamp method for recording the opening and closing of single ionic channels in a membrane. They apply their method to the acetylcholine receptor, while Shosaku Numa and his colleagues determine the amino acid sequence of the receptor by means of DNA analysis. Finally, the 3-dimensional outline of the acetylcholine receptor is derived by Nigel Unwin and Chikashi Toyoshima using X-ray diffraction and electron microscopy. Numa’s group turn their attention to the voltage-gated sodium channel and show that it is formed from four repeats of a basic unit, each of which has six membrane-spanning segments. Although the amino acids likely to form the “gates” are identified, the operating mechanism of the gates remains unknown.

Keywords:   gating current, Bert Sakmann, Erwin Neher, patch clamp, Shosaku Numa, aminoacid sequence, acetylcholine receptor, sodium channel

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