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Human neuronal voltage-dependent calcium channels: studies on subunit structure and role in channel assembly.

P F Brust, S Simerson, A F McCue, C R Deal, S Schoonmaker, M E Williams, G Veliçelebi, E C Johnson, M M Harpold, S B Ellis

Neuropharmacology, 1993 Nov , 32, 1089-102

Voltage-dependent calcium (Ca2+) channels, expressed in the CNS, appear to be multimeric complexes comprised of at least alpha 1, alpha 2 and beta subunits. Previously, we cloned and expressed human neuronal alpha 1, alpha 2 and beta subunits to study recombinant channel complexes that display properties of those expressed in vivo. The alpha 1B-mediated channel subtype binds omega-conotoxin (CgTx) GVIA with high affinity and exhibits properties of N-type voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels. Here we describe several alpha 2 and beta splice variants and report results on the expression of omega-CgTx GVIA binding sites, assembly of the subunit complex and biophysical function of alpha 1B-mediated channel complexes containing some of these splice variants. We optimized recombinant expression in human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells of alpha 1B alpha 2b beta 1 subunit complexes by controlling the expression levels of subunit mRNAs and monitored cell surface expression by binding of omega-CgTx GVIA to the alpha 1B subunit. Co-expression of either alpha 2b or beta 1 subunits with an alpha 1B subunit increased expression of binding sites while the most efficient expression was achieved when both alpha 2b and beta 1 subunits were co-expressed with an alpha 1B subunit. The presence of alpha 2b affects the affinity of omega-CgTx GVIA binding and barium (Ba2+) current magnitudes, although it does not appear to alter kinetic properties of the Ba2+ current. This is the first evidence of an alpha 2 subunit modulating the binding affinity of a cell-surface Ca2+ channel ligand. Our results demonstrate that alpha 1, alpha 2 and beta subunits together contribute to the efficient assembly and functional expression of voltage-dependent Ca2+ channel complexes.