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J Physiol. 2017 Mar 1;595(5):1451-1463. doi: 10.1113/JP273423.

How and why are calcium currents curtailed in the skeletal muscle voltage-gated calcium channels?

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Department of Physiology and Medical Physics, Medical University Innsbruck, Austria.
Pharmacology and Toxicology, Institute of Pharmacy, University of Innsbruck, Austria.


Voltage-gated calcium channels represent the sole mechanism converting electrical signals of excitable cells into cellular functions such as contraction, secretion and gene regulation. Specific voltage-sensing domains detect changes in membrane potential and control channel gating. Calcium ions entering through the channel function as second messengers regulating cell functions, with the exception of skeletal muscle, where CaV 1.1 essentially does not function as a channel but activates calcium release from intracellular stores. It has long been known that calcium currents are dispensable for skeletal muscle contraction. However, the questions as to how and why the channel function of CaV 1.1 is curtailed remained obscure until the recent discovery of a developmental CaV 1.1 splice variant with normal channel functions. This discovery provided new means to study the molecular mechanisms regulating the channel gating and led to the understanding that in skeletal muscle, calcium currents need to be restricted to allow proper regulation of fibre type specification and to prevent mitochondrial damage.

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