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J Bioenerg Biomembr. 1998 Aug;30(4):357-75.

Structures and functions of calcium channel beta subunits.

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Department of Anesthesiology, School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, USA.


Calcium channel beta subunits have profound effects on how alpha1 subunits perform. In this article we summarize our present knowledge of the primary structures of beta subunits as deduced from cDNAs and illustrate their different properties. Upon co-expression with alpha1 subunits, the effects of beta subunits vary somewhat between L-type and non-L-type channels mostly because the two types of channels have different responses to voltage which are affected by beta subunits, such as long-lasting prepulse facilitation of alpha1C (absent in alpha1E) and inhibition by G protein betagamma dimer of alpha1E, absent in alpha1C. One beta subunit, a brain beta2a splice variant that is palmitoylated, has several effects not seen with any of the others, and these are due to palmitoylation. We also illustrate the finding that functional expression of alpha1 in oocytes requires a beta subunit even if the final channel shows no evidence for its presence. We propose two structural models for Ca2+ channels to account for "alpha1 alone" channels seen in cells with limited beta subunit expression. In one model, beta dissociates from the mature alpha1 after proper folding and membrane insertion. Regulated channels seen upon co-expression of high levels of beta would then have subunit composition alpha1beta. In the other model, the "chaperoning" beta remains associated with the mature channel and "alpha1 alone" channels would in fact be alpha1beta channels. Upon co-expression of high levels of beta the regulated channels would have composition [alpha1beta]beta.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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