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Nat Neurosci. 2006 Jan;9(1):31-40. Epub 2005 Nov 27.

ORL1 receptor-mediated internalization of N-type calcium channels.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada.


The inhibition of N-type calcium channels by opioid receptor like receptor 1 (ORL1) is a key mechanism for controlling the transmission of nociceptive signals. We recently reported that signaling complexes consisting of ORL1 receptors and N-type channels mediate a tonic inhibition of calcium entry. Here we show that prolonged ( approximately 30 min) exposure of ORL1 receptors to their agonist nociceptin triggers an internalization of these signaling complexes into vesicular compartments. This effect is dependent on protein kinase C activation, occurs selectively for N-type channels and cannot be observed with mu-opioid or angiotensin receptors. In expression systems and in rat dorsal root ganglion neurons, the nociceptin-mediated internalization of the channels is accompanied by a significant downregulation of calcium entry, which parallels the selective removal of N-type calcium channels from the plasma membrane. This may provide a new means for long-term regulation of calcium entry in the pain pathway.

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