Structure and function of neuronal Ca2+ channels and their role in neurotransmitter release

Cell Calcium. 1998 Nov-Dec;24(5-6):307-23. doi: 10.1016/s0143-4160(98)90055-0.


Electrophysiological studies of neurons reveal different Ca2+ currents designated L-, N-, P-, Q-, R-, and T-type. High-voltage-activated neuronal Ca2+ channels are complexes of a pore-forming alpha 1 subunit of about 190-250 kDa, a transmembrane, disulfide-linked complex of alpha 2 and delta subunits, and an intracellular beta subunit, similar to the alpha 1, alpha 2 delta, and beta subunits previously described for skeletal muscle Ca2+ channels. The primary structures of these subunits have all been determined by homology cDNA cloning using the corresponding subunits of skeletal muscle Ca2+ channels as probes. In most neurons, L-type channels contain alpha 1C or alpha 1D subunits, N-type contain alpha 1B subunits, P- and Q-types contain alternatively spliced forms of alpha 1A subunits, R-type contain alpha 1E subunits, and T-type contain alpha 1G or alpha 1H subunits. Association with different beta subunits also influences Ca2+ channel gating substantially, yielding a remarkable diversity of functionally distinct molecular species of Ca2+ channels in neurons.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / physiology*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism*
  • Protein Isoforms
  • SNARE Proteins
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Synaptotagmins
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins*


  • Calcium Channels
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Protein Isoforms
  • SNARE Proteins
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • Synaptotagmins