RESOURCES: Journey Through the Membrane

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Science  26 Aug 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5739, pp. 1307
DOI: 10.1126/science.309.5739.1307c

The cell membrane rebuffs ions such as sodium and potassium that attempt to traverse it. But the charged particles can enter and exit cells through protein tunnels known as ion channels that are embedded in the membrane. This trio of sites lets everyone from neophytes to neuroscientists boost their understanding of these passages, which are crucial for nerve cell firing and other activities.

Soak up the basics of ion channels at this tutorial from Tim Smith, a chemistry student at the University of Warwick, U.K. The pages describe the structure and mechanics of different types of channels and explain how poisons such tetrodotoxin, produced by the puffer fish, can lock the cellular doorways. Ion is a community site for researchers and students. Sponsored by Ion Channel Media Group of Montreal, Canada, the site features an annoyingly large number of ads but also includes abstracts of fresh papers, a jobs board, and links to other ion-channel and electrophysiology sites. So-called ligand-gated ion channels open or close when molecules such as the neurotransmitter acetylcholine latch on. This database, hosted by the European Bioinformatics Institute, stows amino acid sequences for more than 500 components of ligand-gated channels from humans, mice, rats, and other organisms.

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