N-Type Calcium Channels

  • Elmslie, Keith S. (Department of Physiology, Tulane University Health Science, Center New Orleans)
  • Published : 2000.12.21


The early studies of cardiac and smooth muscle cells provided evidence for two different calcium channels, the L-type (also called high-voltage activated [HVA]) and T-type (low-voltage activated [LVA]). These calcium channels provided calcium for muscle contractions and pace-making activities. As might be expected, the number of different calcium channels increased when researchers studied neurons and the identification of the neuronal calcium channels has proven to be much more difficult than with the muscle calcium channels. There are two reasons for this difficulty; (1) a larger number of different calcium channels in neurons and (2) many of the different calcium channels have similar kinetic properties. This review uses the N-type calcium channel to illustrate the difficulties in identifying and characterizing calcium channels in neurons. It shows that the discovery of toxins that can specifically block single calcium channel types has made it possible to easily and rapidly discern the physiological roles of the different calcium channels in the neuron, Without these toxins it is unlikely that progress would have been as rapid.