Regulation by voltage and adenine nucleotides of a Ca2+-activated cation channel from hamster vomeronasal sensory neurons

J Physiol. 2003 May 1;548(Pt 3):777-87. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2002.037119. Epub 2003 Mar 14.


Bipolar sensory neurons within the vomeronasal organ (VNO) are thought to mediate the detection of pheromones in vertebrates. In the mouse, VNO neurons respond to pheromones with a rise in intracellular Ca2+ that accompanies a depolarization of the cell. Transduction of the pheromone appears to occur through the activation of a phosphatidylinositol signalling pathway, but the ion channels that respond to this signalling pathway have not been identified. In this report patch-clamp recording from hamster vomeronasal sensory neurons was used to identify second-messenger-gated channels that might play a role in transduction. The results demonstrate that VNO neurons show abundant expression of a Ca2+-activated non-selective (CaNS) cation channel. The CaNS channel does not discriminate between Na+ and K+ and has a slope conductance of 22 pS. Half-activation of the channel occurs at a Ca2+ concentration of 0.5 mM (at -80 mV). The probability of opening (Po) of the channel is further augmented at positive potentials, and shows an e-fold voltage dependence per 37 mV. The channel exhibits rapid rundown following patch excision with Po decreasing from near 1.0 to near 0. The adenine nucleotides ATP and cAMP block the channel with an apparent affinity of 3 and 42 microM, respectively (-80 mV). Both the activation of the channel by Ca2+ and the block of the channel by adenine nucleotides show a mild voltage dependence, which can be accounted for by the voltage dependence of Po. The properties of this channel make it a candidate to either directly mediate vomeronasal sensory transduction, or to amplify the primary sensory response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Cricetinae
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Ion Channel Gating / physiology
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mice
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Second Messenger Systems / physiology
  • Vomeronasal Organ / physiology*


  • Ion Channels
  • Calcium