Oregon State UniversitySpecial Collections & Archives Research Center

“Ion Channel Chemistry: The Electrical System of Life,” Dr. Roderick MacKinnon

2008 Linus Pauling Legacy Award

May 5, 2008


Roderick MacKinnon
Roderick MacKinnon (Rockefeller University)

“Ion Channel Chemistry: The Electrical System of Life”  Watch Video

Dr. MacKinnon is the first person to discover the three-dimensional shape of the potassium channel; knowledge that "could lead to better understanding and potential treatments for diseases like cystic fibrosis, epilepsy and heart arrhythmia." His lecture charts the history of scientific inquiry into the human electrical system, discussing breakthroughs made by scientists as varied as Luigi Galvani and Benjamin Franklin. MacKinnon also details recent developments in the study of the molecular principles of selectivity and gating in potassium channels.

Ion channels are responsible for generating electrical impulses and mediating numerous cellular processes. To accomplish their tasks in biology ion channels must exhibit two basic properties, selectivity and gating. Selectivity refers to the property of high fidelity discrimination among similar ions, while gating refers to protein conformational changes that open a channel in response to specific stimuli such as ligand binding or membrane voltage.

Related Names: Linus Pauling