Voltage-gated ion channels have to be at the right place in the right number to endow individual neurons with their specific character. Their biophysical properties together with their spatial distribution define the signalling characteristics of a neuron. Improper channel localization could cause communication defects in a neuronal network. This review covers recent studies of mechanisms for targeting voltage-gated ion channels to axons and dendrites, including trafficking, retention and endocytosis pathways for the preferential localization of particular ion channels. We also discuss how the spatial localization of these channels might contribute to the electrical excitability of neurons, and consider the need for future work in this emerging field.
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