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Neuroscience. 2002;110(2):213-25.

Calcineurin enhances L-type Ca(2+) channel activity in hippocampal neurons: increased effect with age in culture.

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Department of Molecular and Biomedical Pharmacology, College of Medicine, MS-310 UKMC, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40536-0298, USA.


The Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein phosphatase, calcineurin, modulates a number of key Ca(2+) signaling pathways in neurons, and has been implicated in Ca(2+)-dependent negative feedback inactivation of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and voltage-sensitive Ca(2+) channels. In contrast, we report here that three mechanistically disparate calcineurin inhibitors, FK-506, cyclosporin A, and the calcineurin autoinhibitory peptide, inhibited high-voltage-activated Ca(2+) channel currents by up to 40% in cultured hippocampal neurons, suggesting that calcineurin acts to enhance Ca(2+) currents. This effect occurred with Ba(2+) or Ca(2+) as charge carrier, and with or without intracellular Ca(2+) buffered by EGTA. Ca(2+)-dependent inactivation of Ca(2+) channels was not affected by FK-506. The immunosuppressant, rapamycin, and the protein phosphatase 1/2A inhibitor, okadaic acid, did not decrease Ca(2+) channel current, showing specificity for effects on calcineurin. Blockade of L-type Ca(2+) channels with nimodipine fully negated the effect of FK-506 on Ca(2+) channel current, while blockade of N-, and P-/Q-type Ca(2+) channels enhanced FK-506-mediated inhibition of the remaining L-type-enriched current. FK-506 also inhibited substantially more Ca(2+) channel current in 4-week-old vs. 2-week-old cultures, an effect paralleled by an increase in calcineurin A mRNA levels. These studies provide the first evidence that calcineurin selectively enhances L-type Ca(2+) channel activity in neurons. Moreover, this action appears to be increased concomitantly with the well-characterized increase in L-type Ca(2+) channel availability in hippocampal neurons with age-in-culture.

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