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Subunit regulation of the neuronal alpha 1A Ca2+ channel expressed in Xenopus oocytes.

M De Waard, K P Campbell

J. Physiol. (Lond.), 1995 Jun 15 , 485 ( Pt 3), 619-34

1. Voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels are multi-protein complexes composed of at least three subunits: alpha 1, alpha 2 delta and beta. Ba2+ currents were recorded in Xenopus oocytes expressing the neuronal alpha 1A Ca2+ channel, using the two-electrode voltage-clamp technique. Various subunit combinations were studied: alpha 1A, alpha 1A alpha 2 delta b, alpha 1A beta or alpha 1A alpha 2 delta b beta. 2. The alpha 1A subunit alone directs the expression of functional Ca2+ channels. It carries all the properties of the channel: gating, permeability, voltage dependence of activation and inactivation, and pharmacology. The alpha 1A channel is activated by low voltages when physiological concentrations of the permeant cation are used. Both ancillary subunits alpha 2 delta and beta induced considerable changes in the biophysical properties of the alpha 1A current. The subunit specificity of the changes in current properties was analysed for all four beta gene products by coexpressing beta 1b, beta 2a, beta 3 and beta 4. 3. All beta subunits induce a stimulation in the current amplitude, a change in inactivation kinetics, and two hyperpolarizing shifts--one in the voltage dependence of activation and a second in the voltage dependence of steady-state inactivation. The most significant difference in regulation among beta subunits is the induction of variable rate constants of current inactivation. Rates of inactivation were induced in the following order (fastest to slowest): beta 3 > beta 1b = beta 4 > beta 2a. 4. The alpha 2 delta b subunit does not modify the properties of alpha 1A Ca2+ channels in the absence of beta subunits. However, this subunit increases the beta-induced stimulation in current amplitude and also regulates the beta-induced change in inactivation kinetics. 5. Of all the subunit combinations tested, Ca2+ channels that included a beta subunit were the most prone to decrease in activity. It is concluded that beta subunits are the primary target for the inhibitory mechanisms involved in Ca2+ channel run-down. 6. Both alpha 2 delta b and beta 1 b subunits slightly modified the sensitivity of the alpha 1A subunit to the snail peptide omega-conotoxin MVIIC. 7. The subunit-induced changes in properties of the alpha 1A channel are surprisingly similar to changes reported for other alpha 1 subunits. These modifications in channel activity should therefore represent important functional landmarks in the on-going characterization of subunit-subunit interactions.