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Auxiliary subunits operate as a molecular switch in determining gating behaviour of the unitary N-type Ca2+ channel current in Xenopus oocytes.

M Wakamori, G Mikala, Y Mori

J. Physiol. (Lond.), 1999 Jun 15 , 517 ( Pt 3), 659-72

1. We systematically examined the biophysical properties of omega-conotoxin GVIA-sensitive neuronal N-type channels composed of various combinations of the alpha1B, alpha2/delta and beta1b subunits in Xenopus oocytes. 2. Whole-cell recordings demonstrated that coexpression of the beta1b subunit decelerated inactivation, whereas the alpha2/delta accelerated both activation and inactivation, and cancelled the kinetic effects of the beta1b. The alpha2/delta and the beta1b controlled voltage dependence of activation differently: the beta1b significantly shifted the current-voltage relationship towards the hyperpolarizing direction; however, the alpha2/delta shifted the relationship only slightly in the depolarizing direction. The extent of voltage-dependent inactivation was modified solely by the beta1b. 3. Unitary currents measured using a cell-attached patch showed stable patterns of opening that were markedly different among subunit combinations in their kinetic parameters. The alpha2/delta and the beta1b subunits also acted antagonistically in regulating gating patterns of unitary N-type channels. Open time was shortened by the alpha2/delta, while the fraction of long opening was enhanced by the beta1b. The alpha2/delta decreased opening probability (Po), while the beta1b increased Po. alpha1Balpha2/deltabeta1b produced unitary activity with an open time distribution value in between those of alpha1Balpha2/delta and alpha1Bbeta1b. However, both the alpha2/delta and the beta1b subunits reduced the number of null traces. 4. These results suggest that the auxiliary subunits alone and in combination contribute differently in forming gating apparatuses in the N-type channel, raising the possibility that subunit interaction contributes to the generation of functional diversity of N-type channels in native neuronal preparations also.