G-protein inhibition of N- and P/Q-type calcium channels: Distinctive elementary mechanisms and their functional impact

Henry M. Colecraft, David L. Brody, David T. Yue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Voltage-dependent G-protein inhibition of presynaptic Ca2+ channels is a key mechanism for regulating synaptic efficacy. G-protein βγ subunits produce such inhibition by binding to and shifting channel opening patterns from high to low open probability regimes, known respectively as "willing" and "reluctant" modes of gating. Recent macroscopic electrophysiological data hint that only N-type, but not P/Q-type channels can open in the reluctant mode, a distinction that could enrich the dimensions of synaptic modulation arising from channel inhibition. Here, using high-resolution single-channel recording of recombinant channels, we directly distinguished this core contrast in the prevalence of reluctant openings. Single, inhibited N-type channels manifested relatively infrequent openings of submillisecond duration (reluctant openings), which differed sharply from the high-frequency, millisecond gating events characteristic of uninhibited channels. By contrast, inhibited P/Q-type channels were electrically silent at the single-channel level. The functional impact of the differing inhibitory mechanisms was revealed in macroscopic Ca2+ currents evoked with neuronal action potential waveforms (APWs). Fitting with a change in the manner of opening, inhibition of such N-type currents produced both decreased current amplitude and temporally advanced waveform, effects that would not only reduce synaptic efficacy, but also influence the timing of synaptic transmission. On the other hand, inhibition of P/Q-type currents evoked by APWs showed diminished amplitude without shape alteration, as expected from a simple reduction in the number of functional channels. Variable expression of N- and P/Q-type channels at spatially distinct synapses therefore offers the potential for custom regulation of both synaptic efficacy and synchrony, by G-protein inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1137-1147
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 15 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Channel modulation
  • G-proteins
  • Heterologous expression
  • Short-term synaptic plasticity
  • α
  • α

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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