Roderick MacKinnon

The Rockefeller University

Election Year: 2000
Primary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

The structure and function of ion channels with emphasis on K+ channels is the subject of my research. These integral membrane proteins mediate the passive flow of K+ ions across cell membranes, thereby generating the electrical signals produced by living cells. Specifically, I am studying two processes that are fundamental to ion channel function, ion selectivity, and gating. Using tools of molecular biology, electrophysiology, and X-ray crystallography, my laboratory has defined the molecular structure of the K+ channel pore and selectivity filter where K+ is distinguished from Na+. Ionic conductivity measurements and electron density data are being used to develop a picture of the ion conduction process. Gating refers to the protein structural changes that lead to ion channel opening. I am working to understand how ligand binding, membrane voltage, or redox chemistry controls the allosteric state of an ion channel protein.

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