Calcium channel regulation and presynaptic plasticity

Neuron. 2008 Sep 25;59(6):882-901. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.09.005.


Voltage-gated calcium (Ca(2+)) channels initiate release of neurotransmitters at synapses, and regulation of presynaptic Ca(2+) channels has a powerful influence on synaptic strength. Presynaptic Ca(2+) channels form a large signaling complex, which targets synaptic vesicles to Ca(2+) channels for efficient release and mediates Ca(2+) channel regulation. Presynaptic plasticity regulates synaptic function on the timescale of milliseconds to minutes in response to neurotransmitters and the frequency of action potentials. This article reviews the regulation of presynaptic Ca(2+) channels by effectors and regulators of Ca(2+) signaling and describes the emerging evidence for a critical role of Ca(2+) channel regulation in control of neurotransmission and in presynaptic plasticity. Failure of function and regulation of presynaptic Ca(2+) channels leads to migraine, ataxia, and potentially other forms of neurological disease. We propose that presynaptic Ca(2+) channels serve as the regulatory node in a dynamic, multilayered signaling network that exerts short-term control of neurotransmission in response to synaptic activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / physiology*
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Exocytosis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / metabolism
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology*
  • SNARE Proteins / metabolism
  • Second Messenger Systems / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / physiology


  • Calcium Channels
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • SNARE Proteins