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Cell Calcium. 2015 Nov;58(5):457-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ceca.2015.06.013. Epub 2015 Jul 2.

Amphetamine activates calcium channels through dopamine transporter-mediated depolarization.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298, United States.
Department of Physiology and Biophysics, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298, United States. Electronic address:


Amphetamine (AMPH) and its more potent enantiomer S(+)AMPH are psychostimulants used therapeutically to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and have significant abuse liability. AMPH is a dopamine transporter (DAT) substrate that inhibits dopamine (DA) uptake and is implicated in DA release. Furthermore, AMPH activates ionic currents through DAT that modify cell excitability presumably by modulating voltage-gated channel activity. Indeed, several studies suggest that monoamine transporter-induced depolarization opens voltage-gated Ca(2+) channels (CaV), which would constitute an additional AMPH mechanism of action. In this study we co-express human DAT (hDAT) with Ca(2+) channels that have decreasing sensitivity to membrane depolarization (CaV1.3, CaV1.2 or CaV2.2). Although S(+)AMPH is more potent than DA in transport-competition assays and inward-current generation, at saturating concentrations both substrates indirectly activate voltage-gated L-type Ca(2+) channels (CaV1.3 and CaV1.2) but not the N-type Ca(2+) channel (CaV2.2). Furthermore, the potency to achieve hDAT-CaV electrical coupling is dominated by the substrate affinity on hDAT, with negligible influence of L-type channel voltage sensitivity. In contrast, the maximal coupling-strength (defined as Ca(2+) signal change per unit hDAT current) is influenced by CaV voltage sensitivity, which is greater in CaV1.3- than in CaV1.2-expressing cells. Moreover, relative to DA, S(+)AMPH showed greater coupling-strength at concentrations that induced relatively small hDAT-mediated currents. Therefore S(+)AMPH is not only more potent than DA at inducing hDAT-mediated L-type Ca(2+) channel currents but is a better depolarizing agent since it produces tighter electrical coupling between hDAT-mediated depolarization and L-type Ca(2+) channel activation.


Excitability; L-type Ca(2+) channels; MDMA; Monoamine transporters; Neurotransmitter transport; Serotonin; Stimulants

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