Ligand-gated ion channels

Ligand-gated ion channels, mediate the flow of ions when specific ligands (molecules) bind to them.

Ligand-gated ion channels (LGICs) are a type of ion channel that is activated by the binding of specific molecules (ligands). LGICs play a crucial role in the transmission of electrical signals within the nervous system.

When a ligand, such as a neurotransmitter or hormone, binds to the LGIC, it induces a conformational change in the channel, causing it to open or close. This conformational change allows ions, such as sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+), or chloride (Cl-), to flow through the channel pore, resulting in the generation or modulation of an electrical signal.


LGICs are involved in various physiological processes, including synaptic transmission, sensory perception, and muscle contraction. They are critical for maintaining proper neuronal communication and the overall function of the nervous system.

Numerous diseases and disorders have been linked to dysfunctions in ligand-gated ion channels. Here are a few well-known examples. Ligand-gated ion channels are implicated in many other diseases and disorders. :

  • Epilepsy: Certain mutations in LGICs, such as GABA(A) receptors or nicotinic acetylcholine receptors, have been associated with forms of epilepsy. These mutations can alter the normal function of the channels and disrupt the balance of excitation and inhibition in the brain.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Dysfunction of the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor, a type of ligand-gated ion channel, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease. Abnormalities in NMDA receptor function can impair synaptic plasticity, learning, and memory processes.
  • Nicotine addiction: Nicotine acts as a ligand for specific nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the brain. Prolonged exposure to nicotine can result in desensitization and upregulation of these receptors, leading to nicotine addiction and dependence.
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