Here we report that the low-voltage-dependent T-type calcium (Ca2+) channel Cav3.2, encoded by the CACNA1H gene, regulates neuronal differentiation during early embryonic brain development through activating caspase-3. At the onset of neuronal differentiation, neural progenitor cells exhibited spontaneous Ca2+ activity. This activity strongly correlated with the upregulation of CACNA1H mRNA. Cells exhibiting robust spontaneous Ca2+ signaling had increased caspase-3 activity unrelated to apoptosis. Inhibition of Cav3.2 by drugs or viral CACNA1H knock down resulted in decreased caspase-3 activity followed by suppressed neurogenesis. In contrast, when CACNA1H was overexpressed, increased neurogenesis was detected. Cortical slices from Cacna1h knockout mice showed decreased spontaneous Ca2+ activity, a significantly lower protein level of cleaved caspase-3, and microanatomical abnormalities in the subventricular/ventricular and cortical plate zones when compared to their respective embryonic controls. In summary, we demonstrate a novel relationship between Cav3.2 and caspase-3 signaling that affects neurogenesis in the developing brain.
Keywords: Cacna1h; T-type calcium channels; caspase-3; neural differentiation; spontaneous Ca(2+) activity.
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