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Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2003 Jun;13(3):298-307.

Auxiliary subunits: essential components of the voltage-gated calcium channel complex.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Department of Physiology and Biophysics, University of Iowa, College of Medicine, 400 Eckstein Medical Research Building, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Voltage-gated calcium channels are important mediators of several physiological processes, including neuronal excitability and muscle contraction. At the molecular level, the channels are composed of four subunits--the pore forming alpha(1) subunit and the auxiliary alpha(2)delta, beta and gamma subunits. The auxiliary subunits modulate the trafficking and the biophysical properties of the alpha(1) subunit. In the past several years there has been an acceleration of our understanding of the auxiliary subunits, primarily because of their molecular characterization and the availability of spontaneous and targeted mouse mutants. These studies have revealed the crucial role of the subunits in the functional effects that are mediated by voltage-gated calcium channels.

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