Interaction between calcium and slow channel blocking drugs on atrial rate

María Cristina Camilión de Hurtado, Horacio Eugenio Cingolani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The relationship between extracellular calcium concentration and the chronotropic effect of prenylamine, verapamil and nifedipine was studied in isolated spontaneously beating rat atria. The three slow channel blocking drugs produced a concentration-dependent decrease in atrial rate, though with different relative potencies. The order of potency for decreasing atrial rate, independently of the calcium level (1.0, 3.0, 6.0 or 9.0 mmol/l) was: verapamil > nifedipine > prenylamine. Increasing calcium from 1.0 to 6.0 and 9.0 mmol/l increased atrial rate from 251±beats·min-1 to 265±6 beats·min-1 and 285±9 beats·min-1 (mean±1 standard error) respectively (P<0.05). Despite their positive chronotropic effect high calcium levels failed to reverse the negative chronotropic effect of the slow channel blockers. Furthermore, the negative chronotropic effect of both verapamil and nifedipine was enhanced at high calcium levles. Raising calcium from 1.0 to 6.0 mmol/l in the presence of verapamil (1×10-7 mol/l) or nifedipine (3×10-7 mol/l) increased 2-fold the negative chronotropic effect of the calcium channel blockers. In addition, the concentration-effect curves for verapamil and nifedipine shifted to the left by 0.50±0.14 and 0.50±0.16 log units, respectively, when calcium increased from 1.0 to 6.0 mmol/l. The data show that increasing calcium may produce positive or negative chronotropic effects depending on whether or not the calcium channels are blocked. This paradoxical effect of calcium ions can be produced either by opposite chronotropic effects on automatic cells or by shifting the pacemaker activity to a group of cells which respond in a different way to an increment of calcium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalNaunyn-Schmiedeberg's Archives of Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • Atrial rate
  • Calcium
  • Nifedipine
  • Prenylamine
  • Slow channel blockers
  • Verapamil

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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