I am currently trying to understand the Lightning network using their whitepaper and BOLT#3.

However, I have some trouble to understand each public/private keys roles in the processus.

From what I understand here is the process (I call P public keys and K private keys):

  1. Alice and Bob create a Funding transaction but before broadcasting it --> 2 P_a P_b OP_CheckMultisig

  2. They create a commitment (C1a/b) in order to be able to retrieve their fund in case of problems. They both sign it and give it to the counterparty (so Alice sign the C1b with K_a and give it to Bob and vice versa)

(I skip the part of RSMC,HTLC...)

HOWEVER, in BOLT#3 in find this:

Each commitment transaction uses a unique localpubkey, and a remotepubkey

So I don't really understand, do Alice and Bob continue to sign using their private key ? (K_a and K_b) in order to be able to unlock the funding transaction? Are these new publics keys only used for signing new multisig Adress in HTLC and RSMC ?

I think that I am confused about:

  1. which key to use and when
  2. how can we still unlock the funding transaction using various keys

Thank you for your time, I am a newbie here and I hope I will find some help!


2 Answers 2


The BOLT#3 quote you mention refers to the output(s) of each commitment transaction. Keys used in the to_local and to_remote outputs are rotated for each commitment transaction pair.

The commitment transactions are still signed using the funding output's keys.

Aside, note that while the Lightning paper at lightning.network does describe key ideas behind the payment channels in use today on the network it is very outdated. It for instance still makes use of NOINPUT-signed transactions which can be confusing if you start learning about the Lightning Network.
Deployable Lightning from Rusty Russell describes the fundamental changes, and the BOLTs describe what is actually in use today (which is also different). However, they intend to be detailed and prescriptive, not explanatory. If you are looking for an introduction to the Lightning Network, then the Lightning Network Book is probably a better resource.

  • Thank you so much for your response (And thank you Antoine as well). You are totally right, the lightning white paper seems ... outdated? For exemple, the white paper talks about 'Breach Remedy Transaction' or 'Revocable Transaction' but in bolt#3, it seems that this "Breach Remedy Transaction" and the Revocable Transaction are directly in the output script now (only need a revocation key instead of the whole breach transaction for exemple) Jul 2, 2022 at 13:11

To complement Antoine's answer, Chris Stewart presented on Lightning private key management at the Lightning conference 2019.

There are actually 6 different secret keys that you need to manage as part of the Lightning protocol, some of which need to be hot and some of which can be kept in cold storage.

I think you are getting confused between the funding private key and the first per commitment secret. Chris explains the per commitment secret here:

It is the per commitment secret and this is changed every time a Lightning transaction happens. You rotate this secret so it is constantly changing every time something happens in the Lightning channel. It is used to generate the two outputs on your commitment transaction so you need it in a very real sense to be able to access these outputs in case a commitment transaction goes to the chain. Again with this key it must be hot. Every time a Lightning transaction happens you need to be changing this thing and then revoking it after a state transition happens.

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