Ion channels have emerged as regulators of developmental processes. In model organisms and in people with mutations in ion channels, disruption of ion channel function can affect cell proliferation, cell migration, and craniofacial and limb patterning. Alterations of ion channel function affect morphogenesis in fish, frogs, mammals, and flies, demonstrating that ion channels have conserved roles in developmental processes. One model suggests that ion channels affect proliferation and migration through changes in cell volume. However, ion channels have not explicitly been placed in canonical developmental signaling cascades until recently. This review gives examples of ion channels that influence developmental processes, offers a potential underlying molecular mechanism involving bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling, and finally explores exciting possibilities for manipulating ion channels to influence cell fate for regenerative medicine and to impact disease.


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