Voltage-gated ion channels are transmembrane proteins that regulate electrical excitability in cells and are essential components of the electrically active tissues of nerves, muscle and the heart. Potassium channels are one of the largest subfamilies of voltage sensitive channels and are among the most-studied of the voltage-gated ion channels. Voltage-gated channels can be glycosylated and changes in the glycosylation pattern can affect ion channel function, leading to neurological and neuromuscular disorders and congenital disorders of glycosylation (CDG). Alterations in glycosylation can also be acquired and appear to play a role in development and aging. Recent studies have focused on the impact of glycosylation and sialylation on ion channels, particularly for voltage-gated potassium and sodium channels. The terminal step of sialylation often affects channel activation and inactivation kinetics. The presence of sialic acids on O or N-glycans can alter the gating mechanism and cause conformational changes in the voltage-sensing domains due to sialic acid's negative charges. This manuscript will provide an overview of sialic acids, potassium and sodium channel function, and the impact of sialylation on channel activation and deactivation. (C) 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.