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Cell Calcium. 2006 Aug;40(2):221-30. Epub 2006 Jun 23.

T-type Ca2+ channels in vascular smooth muscle: multiple functions.

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Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Institute, Loyola University Medical Center, 2160 S. 1st Avenue, Maywood, IL 60153, USA.


Vascular smooth muscle is a major constituent of the blood vessel wall, and its many functions depend on type and location of the vessel, developmental or pathological state, and environmental and chemical factors. Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) use calcium as a signal molecule for multiple functions. An important component of calcium signaling pathways is the entry of extracellular calcium via voltage-gated Ca2+ channels, which in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) are of two main types, the high voltage-activated (HVA) L-type and low voltage-activated (LVA) T-type channels. Whereas L-type channels function primarily to regulate Ca2+ entry for contraction, it is generally accepted that T-type Ca2+ channels do not contribute significantly to arterial vasoconstriction, with the possible exception of the renal microcirculation. T-type Ca2+ channels are also present in some veins that display spontaneous contractile activity, where they likely generate pacemaker activity. T-type Ca2+ channel expression has also been associated with normal and pathological proliferation of VSMCs, often stimulated by external cues in response to insult or injury. Expression of T-type channels has been linked to the G1 and S phases of the cell cycle, a period important for the signaling of gene expression necessary for cell growth, progression of the cell cycle and ultimately cell division. To better understand T-type Ca2+ channel functions in VSM, it will be necessary to develop new approaches that are specifically targeted to this class of Ca2+ channels and its individual members.

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