Structural Basis for Diltiazem Block of a Voltage-Gated Ca2+ Channel

Mol Pharmacol. 2019 Oct;96(4):485-492. doi: 10.1124/mol.119.117531. Epub 2019 Aug 7.


Diltiazem is a widely prescribed Ca2+ antagonist drug for cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension, and angina pectoris. Using the ancestral CaV channel construct CaVAb as a molecular model for X-ray crystallographic analysis, we show here that diltiazem targets the central cavity of the voltage-gated Ca2+ channel underneath its selectivity filter and physically blocks ion conduction. The diltiazem-binding site overlaps with the receptor site for phenylalkylamine Ca2+ antagonist drugs such as verapamil. The dihydropyridine Ca2+ channel blocker amlodipine binds at a distinct site and allosterically modulates the binding sites for diltiazem and Ca2+ Our studies resolve two distinct binding poses for diltiazem in the absence and presence of amlodipine. The binding pose in the presence of amlodipine may mimic a high-affinity binding configuration induced by voltage-dependent inactivation, which is favored by dihydropyridine binding. In this binding pose, the tertiary amino group of diltiazem projects upward into the inner end of the ion selectivity filter, interacts with ion coordination Site 3 formed by the backbone carbonyls of T175, and alters binding of Ca2+ to ion coordination Sites 1 and 2. Altogether, our results define the receptor site for diltiazem and elucidate the mechanisms for pore block and allosteric modulation by other Ca2+ channel-blocking drugs at the atomic level. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Calcium antagonist drugs that block voltage-gated calcium channels in heart and vascular smooth muscle are widely used in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Our results reveal the chemical details of diltiazem binding in a blocking position in the pore of a model calcium channel and show that binding of another calcium antagonist drug alters binding of diltiazem and calcium. This structural information defines the mechanism of drug action at the atomic level and provides a molecular template for future drug discovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allosteric Regulation
  • Amlodipine / chemistry
  • Amlodipine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / chemistry
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology*
  • Calcium Channels / chemistry*
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism*
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Diltiazem / chemistry
  • Diltiazem / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Molecular
  • Protein Conformation
  • Verapamil / pharmacology


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Calcium Channels
  • Amlodipine
  • Verapamil
  • Diltiazem