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KCNE1 gene

potassium voltage-gated channel subfamily E regulatory subunit 1

Normal Function

The KCNE1 gene provides instructions for making a protein that regulates the activity of potassium channels. These channels, which transport positively charged potassium atoms (ions) into and out of cells, play a key role in a cell's ability to generate and transmit electrical signals.

The specific function of a potassium channel depends on its protein components and its location in the body. The KCNE1 protein regulates a channel made up of four parts, called alpha subunits, which are produced from the KCNQ1 gene. One beta subunit, produced from the KCNE1 gene, binds to the channel and regulates its activity.

These channels are active in the inner ear and in heart (cardiac) muscle, where they transport potassium ions out of cells. In the inner ear, the channels play a role in maintaining the proper ion balance needed for normal hearing. In the heart, the channels are involved in recharging the cardiac muscle after each heartbeat to maintain a regular rhythm. The KCNE1 protein is also produced in the kidneys, testes, and uterus, where it probably regulates the activity of other channels.

Health Conditions Related to Genetic Changes

Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome

At least four mutations in the KCNE1 gene have been identified in people with Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome, a condition that causes an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and profound hearing loss from birth. About 10 percent of cases are caused by mutations in this gene. Affected people typically have mutations in both copies of the KCNE1 gene in each cell. These mutations change a single protein building block (amino acid) in the KCNE1 protein, which disrupts the protein's normal structure. An altered KCNE1 protein cannot regulate the flow of potassium ions through channels in the inner ear and cardiac muscle. This loss of channel function leads to the arrhythmia and hearing loss characteristic of Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome.

More About This Health Condition

Other disorders

Certain drugs, including medications used to treat arrhythmias, infections, seizures, and psychotic disorders, can lead to an abnormal heart rhythm in some people. This drug-induced heart condition, which is known as acquired long QT syndrome, increases the risk of cardiac arrest and sudden death. A small percentage of cases of acquired long QT syndrome occur in people who have an underlying mutation in the KCNE1 gene.

Other Names for This Gene

  • delayed rectifier potassium channel subunit IsK
  • IKs producing slow voltage-gated potassium channel beta subunit Mink
  • ISK
  • JLNS2
  • LQT5
  • minimal potassium channel
  • minK
  • potassium channel, voltage gated subfamily E regulatory beta subunit 1
  • potassium voltage-gated channel, Isk-related family, member 1

Additional Information & Resources

Tests Listed in the Genetic Testing Registry

Scientific Articles on PubMed

Gene and Variant Databases


  • Abbott GW. KCNE1 and KCNE3: The yin and yang of voltage-gated K(+) channel regulation. Gene. 2016 Jan 15;576(1 Pt 1):1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2015.09.059. Epub 2015 Sep 26. Citation on PubMed or Free article on PubMed Central
  • Chan PJ, Osteen JD, Xiong D, Bohnen MS, Doshi D, Sampson KJ, Marx SO, Karlin A, Kass RS. Characterization of KCNQ1 atrial fibrillation mutations reveals distinct dependence on KCNE1. J Gen Physiol. 2012 Feb;139(2):135-44. doi: 10.1085/jgp.201110672. Epub 2012 Jan 16. Citation on PubMed or Free article on PubMed Central
  • Ehmke H. Physiological functions of the regulatory potassium channel subunit KCNE1. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2002 Mar;282(3):R637-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00723.2001. No abstract available. Citation on PubMed
  • Groffen AJ, Bikker H, Christiaans I. Long QT Syndrome Overview. 2003 Feb 20 [updated 2024 Mar 21]. In: Adam MP, Feldman J, Mirzaa GM, Pagon RA, Wallace SE, Bean LJH, Gripp KW, Amemiya A, editors. GeneReviews(R) [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993-2024. Available from Citation on PubMed
  • Lundquist AL, Turner CL, Ballester LY, George AL Jr. Expression and transcriptional control of human KCNE genes. Genomics. 2006 Jan;87(1):119-28. doi: 10.1016/j.ygeno.2005.09.004. Epub 2005 Nov 21. Citation on PubMed
  • Melman YF, Um SY, Krumerman A, Kagan A, McDonald TV. KCNE1 binds to the KCNQ1 pore to regulate potassium channel activity. Neuron. 2004 Jun 24;42(6):927-37. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2004.06.001. Citation on PubMed
  • Paulussen AD, Gilissen RA, Armstrong M, Doevendans PA, Verhasselt P, Smeets HJ, Schulze-Bahr E, Haverkamp W, Breithardt G, Cohen N, Aerssens J. Genetic variations of KCNQ1, KCNH2, SCN5A, KCNE1, and KCNE2 in drug-induced long QT syndrome patients. J Mol Med (Berl). 2004 Mar;82(3):182-8. doi: 10.1007/s00109-003-0522-z. Epub 2004 Feb 4. Citation on PubMed
  • Tranebjaerg L, Samson RA, Green GE. Jervell and Lange-Nielsen Syndrome. 2002 Jul 29 [updated 2017 Aug 17]. In: Adam MP, Feldman J, Mirzaa GM, Pagon RA, Wallace SE, Bean LJH, Gripp KW, Amemiya A, editors. GeneReviews(R) [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993-2024. Available from Citation on PubMed

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.