First, many channel types can be gated, meaning that the probability that the channel is open can be increased or decreased. The topic of channel gating is a whole story by itself, but several ways of gating channels include reversible binding of small molecules that are components of signaling cascades (ligand-gated channels), changes in membrane potential (voltage-gated channels), and mechanical distortion (stretch-gated channels).

Second, many channels types have phosphorylation sites such that phosphorylation either locks the channel shut or allows it to be gated by one the mechanisms above.

Third, some channel species can be moved back and forth between the surface membrane and intracellular vesicles, thereby regulating the number of the existing channels actually functioning as permeability pathways.

Finally, and on a slower time scale, the genomic expression of channels is regulated so that the total number of channels, whether in the membrane or sequestered in vesicles, is altered up or down. Channel is not permanent fixtures in the membrane. Their lifetimes in the membrane are generally in the range of a few hours. All of these regulatory processes are controlled by intricate signaling cascades that are the subject of current research.