Three types of neuronal calcium channel with different calcium agonist sensitivity

Nature. 1985 Aug;316(6027):440-3. doi: 10.1038/316440a0.


How many types of calcium channels exist in neurones? This question is fundamental to understanding how calcium entry contributes to diverse neuronal functions such as transmitter release, neurite extension, spike initiation and rhythmic firing. There is considerable evidence for the presence of more than one type of Ca conductance in neurones and other cells. However, little is known about single-channel properties of diverse neuronal Ca channels, or their responsiveness to dihydropyridines, compounds widely used as labels in Ca channel purification. Here we report evidence for the coexistence of three types of Ca channel in sensory neurones of the chick dorsal root ganglion. In addition to a large conductance channel that contributes long-lasting current at strong depolarizations (L), and a relatively tiny conductance that underlies a transient current activated at weak depolarizations (T), we find a third type of unitary activity (N) that is neither T nor L. N-type Ca channels require strongly negative potentials for complete removal of inactivation (unlike L) and strong depolarizations for activation (unlike T). The dihydropyridine Ca agonist Bay K 8644 strongly increases the opening probability of L-, but not T- or N-type channels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • 3-Pyridinecarboxylic acid, 1,4-dihydro-2,6-dimethyl-5-nitro-4-(2-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-, Methyl ester
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology*
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Ion Channels / physiology*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Nifedipine / analogs & derivatives
  • Nifedipine / pharmacology
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Ion Channels
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • 3-Pyridinecarboxylic acid, 1,4-dihydro-2,6-dimethyl-5-nitro-4-(2-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-, Methyl ester
  • Nifedipine
  • Calcium