Structure and regulation of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2000:16:521-55. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.16.1.521.


Voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels mediate Ca(2+) entry into cells in response to membrane depolarization. Electrophysiological studies reveal different Ca(2+) currents designated L-, N-, P-, Q-, R-, and T-type. The high-voltage-activated Ca(2+) channels that have been characterized biochemically are complexes of a pore-forming alpha1 subunit of approximately 190-250 kDa; a transmembrane, disulfide-linked complex of alpha2 and delta subunits; an intracellular beta subunit; and in some cases a transmembrane gamma subunit. Ten alpha1 subunits, four alpha2delta complexes, four beta subunits, and two gamma subunits are known. The Cav1 family of alpha1 subunits conduct L-type Ca(2+) currents, which initiate muscle contraction, endocrine secretion, and gene transcription, and are regulated primarily by second messenger-activated protein phosphorylation pathways. The Cav2 family of alpha1 subunits conduct N-type, P/Q-type, and R-type Ca(2+) currents, which initiate rapid synaptic transmission and are regulated primarily by direct interaction with G proteins and SNARE proteins and secondarily by protein phosphorylation. The Cav3 family of alpha1 subunits conduct T-type Ca(2+) currents, which are activated and inactivated more rapidly and at more negative membrane potentials than other Ca(2+) current types. The distinct structures and patterns of regulation of these three families of Ca(2+) channels provide a flexible array of Ca(2+) entry pathways in response to changes in membrane potential and a range of possibilities for regulation of Ca(2+) entry by second messenger pathways and interacting proteins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / pharmacology
  • Calcium Channels / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Fluid / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proteins / metabolism


  • Calcium Channels
  • Proteins
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • Calcium