The G protein-coupled inwardly-rectifying potassium channels (GIRKs) are a family of lipid-gatedinward-rectifier potassium ion channels which are activated (opened) by the signaling lipid PIP2 and a signal transduction cascade starting with ligand-stimulated G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). GPCRs in turn release activated G-protein βγ- subunits (Gβγ) from inactive heterotrimeric G protein complexes (Gαβγ). Finally, the Gβγ dimeric protein interacts with GIRK channels to open them so that they become permeable to potassium ions, resulting in hyperpolarization of the cell membrane. G protein-coupled inwardly-rectifying potassium channels are a type of G protein-gated ion channels because of this direct interaction of G protein subunits with GIRK channels. The activation likely works by increasing the affinity of the channel for PIP2. In high concentration PIP2 activates the channel absent G-protein, but G-protein does not activate the channel absent PIP2.
GIRK1 to GIRK3 are distributed broadly in the central nervous system, where their distributions overlap. GIRK4, instead, is found primarily in the heart.
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