Voltage-gated ion channels are responsible for the electrical excitability of neurons and cardiomyocytes. Thus, they are obvious targets for pharmaceuticals aimed to modulate excitability. Compounds activating voltage-gated potassium (KV) channels are expected to reduce excitability. To search for new KV-channel activators, we performed a high-throughput screen of 10,000 compounds on a specially designed Shaker KV channel. Here, we report on a large family of channel-activating compounds with a carboxyl (COOH) group as the common motif. The most potent COOH activators are lipophilic (4 < LogP <7) and are suggested to bind at the interface between the lipid bilayer and the channel’s positively charged voltage sensor. The negatively charged form of the COOH-group compounds is suggested to open the channel by electrostatically pulling the voltage sensor to an activated state. Several of the COOH-group compounds also activate the therapeutically important KV7.2/7.3 channel and can thus potentially be developed into antiseizure drugs. The COOH-group compounds identified in this study are suggested to act via the same site and mechanism of action as previously studied COOH-group compounds, such as polyunsaturated fatty acids and resin acids, but distinct from sites for several other types of potassium channel–activating compounds.

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