Electrophysiological analyses have indicated three general patterns of development of excitability in neurons. Each pattern is associated with specifc programs of development for underlying voltage-gated currents. Because ion channel genes have been and are being cloned, analyses of mechanisms can be approached at the molecular level. Regulation of excitability is complex and involves control of multiple VGIC genes at multiple levels.
Important issues for future research will be to identify transcription factors and DNA regulatory regions involved in the development control of VGIC gene transcription. It is likely that many VGIC genes will be coordinately controlled. At the other end of the spectrum, recent research suggests that an important post-translational mechanism for control of VGIC density involves regulation of plasma membrane insertion. This mechanism is not unique to VGICs as it is also crucial for regulation of postsynaptic function following periods of activity (for review, see Malinow, 2003).
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