Metal homeostasis is critical to normal neurophysiological activity. Metal ions are involved in the development, metabolism, redox and neurotransmitter transmission of the central nervous system (CNS). Thus, disturbance of homeostasis (such as metal deficiency or excess) can result in serious consequences, including neurooxidative stress, excitotoxicity, neuroinflammation, and nerve cell death. The uptake, transport and metabolism of metal ions are highly regulated by ion channels. There is growing evidence that metal ion disorders and/or the dysfunction of ion channels contribute to the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and multiple sclerosis (MS). Therefore, metal homeostasis-related signaling pathways are emerging as promising therapeutic targets for diverse neurological diseases. This review summarizes recent advances in the studies regarding the physiological and pathophysiological functions of metal ions and their channels, as well as their role in neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, currently available metal ion modulators and in vivo quantitative metal ion imaging methods are also discussed. Current work provides certain recommendations based on literatures and in-depth reflections to improve neurodegenerative diseases. Future studies should turn to crosstalk and interactions between different metal ions and their channels. Concomitant pharmacological interventions for two or more metal signaling pathways may offer clinical advantages in treating the neurodegenerative diseases.
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