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J Neurophysiol. 2014 Sep 1;112(5):1119-30. doi: 10.1152/jn.00757.2013. Epub 2014 May 21.

Cav1.2 and Cav1.3 L-type calcium channels regulate dopaminergic firing activity in the mouse ventral tegmental area.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, School of Life Science and Biopharmaceutics, Shenyang Pharmaceutical University, Shenyang, Liaoning, China;
  • 2Division of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada;
  • 3Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Institute of Pharmacy and Center for Molecular Biosciences Innsbruck (CMBI), University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria; and.
  • 4Division of Pediatric Neurology, Department of Pediatrics and Brain and Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, New York.


Dopaminergic projections from the ventral tegmental area (VTA) constitute the mesolimbocortical system that underlies addiction and psychosis primarily as a result of increased dopaminergic transmission. Dopamine release is spike dependent. L-type calcium channels (LTCCs) play an important role in regulating firing activities, but the contribution of specific subtypes remains unclear. This article describes different functions of Cav1.2 and Cav1.3 subtypes in regulating firing properties with two transgenic mouse strains. For basal firing, Cav1.3-deficient (Cav1.3(-/-)) mice had a lower basal firing frequency. The dihydropyridine (DHP) channel blocker nifedipine reduced single-spike firing in mice expressing DHP-insensitive Cav1.2 channels (Cav1.2DHP(-/-) mice), confirming the significant contribution from the Cav1.3 subtype in basal firing. Moreover, the DHP channel activator (S)-(-)-Bay K8644 and the non-DHP channel activator FPL 64176 converted firing patterns from single spiking to bursting in Cav1.2DHP(-/-) mice. Nifedipine inhibited burst firing induced by both activators, suggesting that Cav1.3 also serves an essential role in burst firing. However, FPL 64176 also induced bursting in Cav1.3(-/-) mice. These results indicate that the Cav1.3 subtype is crucial to regulation of basal single-spike firing, while activation of both Cav1.2 and Cav1.3 can support burst firing of VTA neurons.


action potential; calcium channel; firing patterns; patch-clamp recording; transgenic mouse

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