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J Neurophysiol. 2004 Mar;91(3):1450-4. Epub 2003 Nov 26.

Low-threshold L-type calcium channels in rat dopamine neurons.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tennessee 38163, USA.


Ca(2+) channel subtypes expressed by dopaminergic (DA) neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) were studied using whole cell patch-clamp recordings and blockers selective for different channel types (L, N, and P/Q). Nimodipine (Nim, 2 microM), omega-conotoxin GVIA (Ctx, 1 microM), or omega-agatoxin IVA (Atx, 50 nM) blocked 27, 36, and 37% of peak whole cell Ca(2+) channel current, respectively, indicating the presence of L-, N-, and P-type channels. Nim blocked approximately twice as much Ca(2+) channel current near activation threshold compared with Ctx or Atx, suggesting that small depolarizations preferentially opened L-type versus N- or P-type Ca(2+) channels. N- and L-channels in DA neurons opened over a significantly more negative voltage range than those in rat dorsal root ganglion cells, recorded from using identical conditions. These data provide an explanation as to why Ca(2+)-dependent spontaneous oscillatory potentials and rhythmic firing in DA neurons are blocked by L-channel but not N-channel antagonists and suggest that pharmacologically similar Ca(2+) channels may exhibit different thresholds for activation in different types of neurons.

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