PubMed 11880487

Title: Alternative splicing of the beta 4 subunit has alpha1 subunit subtype-specific effects on Ca2+ channel gating.

Authors: Thomas D Helton, William A Horne

Journal, date & volume: J. Neurosci., 2002 Mar 1 , 22, 1573-82

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Ca2+ channel beta subunits are important molecular determinants of the kinetics and voltage dependence of Ca2+ channel gating. Through direct interactions with channel-forming alpha1 subunits, beta subunits enhance expression levels, accelerate activation, and have variable effects on inactivation. Four distinct beta subunit genes each encode five homologous sequence domains (D1-5), three of which (D1, D3, and D5) undergo alternative splicing. We have isolated from human spinal cord a novel alternatively spliced beta4 subunit containing a short form of domain D1 (beta4a) that is highly homologous to N termini of Xenopus and rat beta3 subunits. The purpose of this study was to compare the gating properties of various alpha1 subunit complexes containing beta4a with those of complexes containing a beta4 subunit with a longer form of domain D1, beta4b. Expression in Xenopus oocytes revealed that, relative to alpha1A and alpha1B complexes containing beta4b, the voltage dependence of activation and inactivation of complexes containing beta4a were shifted to more depolarized potentials. Moreover, alpha1A and alpha1B complexes containing beta4a inactivated at a faster rate. Interestingly, beta4 subunit alternative splicing did not influence the gating properties of alpha1C and alpha1E subunits. Experiments with beta4 deletion mutants revealed that both the N and C termini of the beta4 subunit play critical roles in setting voltage-dependent gating parameters and that their effects are alpha1 subunit specific. Our data are best explained by a model in which distinct modes of activation and inactivation result from beta-subunit splice variant-specific interactions with an alpha1 subunit gating structure.