Block of current through T-type calcium channels by trivalent metal cations and nickel in neural rat and human cells

J Physiol. 1993 Sep;469:639-52. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1993.sp019835.


1. The effects of the trivalent cations yttrium (Y3+), lanthanum (La3+), cerium (Ce3+), neodymium (Nd3+), gadolinium (Gd3+), holmium (Ho3+), erbium (Er3+), ytterbium (Yb3+) and the divalent cation nickel (Ni2+) on the T-type voltage gated calcium channel (VGCC) were characterized by the whole-cell patch clamp technique using rat and human thyroid C cell lines. 2. All the metal cations (M3+) studied, blocked current through T-type VGCC (IT) in a concentration-dependent manner. Smaller trivalents were the best T-channel antagonists and potency varied inversely with ionic radii for the larger M3+ ions. Estimation of half-maximal blocking concentrations (IC50s) for IT carried by 10 mM Ca2+ resulted in the following potency sequence: Ho3+ (IC50 = 0.107 microM) approximately Y3+ (0.117) approximately Yb3+ (0.124) > or = Er3+ (0.153) > Gd3+ (0.267) > Nd3+ (0.429) > Ce3+ (0.728) > La3+ (1.015) >> Ni2+ (5.65). 3. Tail current measurements and conditioning protocols were used to study the influence of membrane voltage on the potency of these antagonists. Block of IT by Ni2+, Y3+, La3+ and the lanthanides was voltage independent in the range from -200 to +80 mV. In addition, the antagonists did not affect macroscopic inactivation and deactivation of T-type VGCC. 4. Increasing the extracellular Ca2+ concentration reduced the potency of IT block by Ho3+, indicative of competitive antagonism between this blocker and the permeant ion for a binding site. 5. The results suggest that the mechanism of metal cation block of T-type VGCC is occlusion of the channel pore by the antagonist binding to a Ca2+/M3+ binding site, located out of the membrane electric field. 6. Block of T-type VGCC by Y3+, lanthanides and La3+ differ from the inhibition of high voltage-activated VGCC block in several respects: smaller cations are more potent IT antagonists; block is voltage independent and the antagonists do not permeate T-type channels. These differences suggest corresponding structural dissimilarities in the permeation pathways of low and high voltage-activated Ca2+ channels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channel Blockers / pharmacology*
  • Cations / pharmacology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Ion Channel Gating / drug effects
  • Lanthanum / pharmacology
  • Metals, Rare Earth / pharmacology
  • Neural Crest / cytology
  • Neural Crest / drug effects
  • Neural Crest / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nickel / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Thyroid Gland / cytology
  • Thyroid Gland / drug effects
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Ytterbium / pharmacology


  • Calcium Channel Blockers
  • Cations
  • Culture Media
  • Metals, Rare Earth
  • Lanthanum
  • Nickel
  • Ytterbium