Dynamic interplay of excitatory and inhibitory coupling modes of neuronal L-type calcium channels

Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2011 Apr;300(4):C937-49. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.00219.2010. Epub 2011 Jan 12.


L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (LTCCs) have long been considered as crucial regulators of neuronal excitability. This role is thought to rely largely on coupling of LTCC-mediated Ca(2+) influx to Ca(2+)-dependent conductances, namely Ca(2+)-dependent K(+) (K(Ca)) channels and nonspecific cation (CAN) channels, which mediate afterhyperpolarizations (AHPs) and afterdepolarizations (ADPs), respectively. However, in which manner LTCCs, K(Ca) channels, and CAN channels co-operate remained scarcely known. In this study, we examined how activation of LTCCs affects neuronal depolarizations and analyzed the contribution of Ca(2+)-dependent potassium- and cation-conductances. With the use of hippocampal neurons in primary culture, pulsed current-injections were applied in the presence of tetrodotoxin (TTX) for stepwise depolarization and the availability of LTCCs was modulated by BAY K 8644 and isradipine. By varying pulse length and current strength, we found that weak depolarizing stimuli tend to be enhanced by LTCC activation, whereas in the course of stronger depolarizations LTCCs counteract excitation. Both effect modes appear to involve the same channels that mediate ADP and AHP, respectively. Indeed, ADPs were activated at lower stimulation levels than AHPs. In the absence of TTX, activation of LTCCs prolonged or shortened burst firing, depending on the initial burst duration, and invariably augmented brief unprovoked (such as excitatory postsynaptic potentials) and provoked electrical events. Hence, regulation of membrane excitability by LTCCs involves synchronous activity of both excitatory and inhibitory Ca(2+)-activated ion channels. The overall enhancing or dampening effect of LTCC stimulation on excitability does not only depend on the relative abundance of the respective coupling partner but also on the stimulus intensity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3-Pyridinecarboxylic acid, 1,4-dihydro-2,6-dimethyl-5-nitro-4-(2-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-, Methyl ester / metabolism
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Apamin / metabolism
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Channel Agonists / metabolism
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / metabolism
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Isradipine / metabolism
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Calcium Channel Agonists
  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Calcium Channels, L-Type
  • Sodium Channel Blockers
  • Apamin
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • 3-Pyridinecarboxylic acid, 1,4-dihydro-2,6-dimethyl-5-nitro-4-(2-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-, Methyl ester
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Isradipine