Reversible uncoupling of inactivation in N-type calcium channels

Mark R. Plummer, Peter Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


N-TYPE calcium channels are thought to be expressed specifically in neuronal cells1-3 and to have a dominant role in the control of neurotransmitter release from sympathetic neurons4,5. But their unitary properties are poorly understood and the separation of neuronal Ca2+ current into components carried by N-type or L-type Ca2+ channels is controversial6. Here we show that individual N-type Ca2+ channels in sympathetic neurons can carry two kineti-cally distinct components of current, one that is rapidly transient and one that is long lasting. The mechanism that gives rise to these two components is unexpected for Ca2+ channels: a test depolarization elicits either a rapidly inactivating, single short burst with an average duration of 40 ms, or sustained, non-inactivating channel activity lasting for over 1 s. The switching between inactivating and noninactivating activity is a slow process, the occurrence of each type of unitary kinetic behaviour remaining statistically correlated over several seconds. Variable coupling of inactivation in N-type Ca2+ channels could be an effective mechanism for the modulation of neuronal excitability and synaptic plasticity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-659
Number of pages3
Issue number6328
StatePublished - 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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