Pannexin 1 (Panx1) forms plasma membrane ion channels that are widely expressed throughout the body. Panx1 activation results in the release of nucleotides such as adenosine triphosphate and uridine triphosphate. Thus, these channels have been implicated in diverse physiological and pathological functions associated with purinergic signaling, such as apoptotic cell clearance, blood pressure regulation, neuropathic pain, and excitotoxicity. In light of this, substantial attention has been directed to understanding the mechanisms that regulate Panx1 channel expression and activation. Here we review accumulated evidence for the various activation mechanisms described for Panx1 channels and, where possible, the unitary channel properties associated with those forms of activation. We also emphasize current limitations in studying Panx1 channel function and propose potential directions to clarify the exciting and expanding roles of Panx1 channels.