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Behav Brain Res. 2010 Mar 17;208(1):224-30. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.11.042. Epub 2009 Dec 4.

Behavioral and neurochemical characterization of mice deficient in the N-type Ca2+ channel alpha1B subunit.

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Department of Pharmacology, Tohoku Pharmaceutical University, 4-4-1 Komatsushima, Aoba-ku, Sendai 981-8558, Japan.


N-type voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDCCs) play an important role in neurotransmission, synaptic plasticity, and brain development. They are composed of several subunits named alpha(1), alpha(2), delta, beta and gamma. The alpha(1) subunit is essential for channel functions and determines fundamental channel properties. Since N-type VDCC are critically involved in the release of neurotransmitters and clinical relevance, we predicted that alpha(1) subunit KO mice would show several alterations in behavior. In the present study, we investigated neuronal functions in mice lacking the alpha(1B) (Ca(V)2.2) subunit of the N-type calcium channels. Ca(V)2.2(-/-) mice exhibited a significant increase in locomotion on an activity wheel during the dark phase. Furthermore, when challenged with apomorphine, mutant mice showed enhanced locomotor activity. Cognitive functions were examined using a Y-maze task for short-term memory and a passive avoidance task for long-term memory. The Y-maze revealed no differences in spontaneous alternation behavior between mutant and wild-type mice. The passive avoidance test revealed that the latency time in mutant mice was significantly decreased. The mutant mice showed prepulse inhibition deficits reminiscent of the sensorimotor gating deficits observed in a large majority of schizophrenic patients. Decreases in baseline levels of dopamine and serotonin within the striata and frontal cortices of mutant mice were also observed. These results suggest that Ca(2+) in the central nervous system modulates various neurophysiological functions, such as locomotor activity, long-term memory, and sensorimotor gating through the alpha(1B) subunit of the N-type calcium channels.

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