Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Voltage-dependent calcium channel


Identifying the determinants of neuronal energy consumption and their relationship to information coding is critical to understanding neuronal function and evolution. Three of the main determinants are cell size, ion channel density, and stimulus statistics. Here we investigate their impact on neuronal energy consumption and information coding by comparing single-compartment spiking neuron models of different sizes with different densities of stochastic voltage-gated Na(+) and K(+) channels and different statistics of synaptic inputs. The largest compartments have the highest information rates but the lowest energy efficiency for a given voltage-gated ion channel density, and the highest signaling efficiency (bits spike(-1)) for a given firing rate. For a given cell size, our models revealed that the ion channel density that maximizes energy efficiency is lower than that maximizing information rate. Low rates of small synaptic inputs improve energy efficiency but the highest information rates occur with higher rates and larger inputs. These relationships produce a Law of Diminishing Returns that penalizes costly excess information coding capacity, promoting the reduction of cell size, channel density, and input stimuli to the minimum possible, suggesting that the trade-off between energy and information has influenced all aspects of neuronal anatomy and physiology.Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism advance online publication, 19 June 2013; doi:10.1038/jcbfm.2013.103.

Concepts: Neuron, Action potential, Ion channel, Voltage-gated ion channel, Membrane potential, Information theory, Potassium channel, Voltage-dependent calcium channel


Repeated Wi-Fi studies show that Wi-Fi causes oxidative stress, sperm/testicular damage, neuropsychiatric effects including EEG changes, apoptosis, cellular DNA damage, endocrine changes, and calcium overload. Each of these effects are also caused by exposures to other microwave frequency EMFs, with each such effect being documented in from 10 to 16 reviews. Therefore, each of these seven EMF effects are established effects of Wi-Fi and of other microwave frequency EMFs. Each of these seven is also produced by downstream effects of the main action of such EMFs, voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) activation. While VGCC activation via EMF interaction with the VGCC voltage sensor seems to be the predominant mechanism of action of EMFs, other mechanisms appear to have minor roles. Minor roles include activation of other voltage-gated ion channels, calcium cyclotron resonance and the geomagnetic magnetoreception mechanism. Five properties of non-thermal EMF effects are discussed. These are that pulsed EMFs are, in most cases, more active than are non-pulsed EMFs; artificial EMFs are polarized and such polarized EMFs are much more active than non-polarized EMFs; dose-response curves are non-linear and non-monotone; EMF effects are often cumulative; and EMFs may impact young people more than adults. These general findings and data presented earlier on Wi-Fi effects were used to assess the Foster and Moulder (F&M) review of Wi-Fi. The F&M study claimed that there were seven important studies of Wi-Fi that each showed no effect. However, none of these were Wi-Fi studies, with each differing from genuine Wi-Fi in three distinct ways. F&M could, at most conclude that there was no statistically significant evidence of an effect. The tiny numbers studied in each of these seven F&M-linked studies show that each of them lack power to make any substantive conclusions. In conclusion, there are seven repeatedly found Wi-Fi effects which have also been shown to be caused by other similar EMF exposures. Each of the seven should be considered, therefore, as established effects of Wi-Fi.

Concepts: Neuron, Statistical significance, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Voltage-gated ion channel, Ion channels, Voltage-dependent calcium channel, Microwave


L-type calcium channels expressed in the brain are heterogeneous. The predominant class of L-type calcium channels has a Ca(V)1.2 pore-forming subunit. L-type calcium channels with a Ca(V)1.3 pore-forming subunit are much less abundant, but have been implicated in the generation of mitochondrial oxidant stress underlying pathogenesis in Parkinson’s disease. Thus, selectively antagonizing Ca(V)1.3 L-type calcium channels could provide a means of diminishing cell loss in Parkinson’s disease without producing side effects accompanying general antagonism of L-type calcium channels. However, there are no known selective antagonists of Ca(V)1.3 L-type calcium channel. Here we report high-throughput screening of commercial and ‘in-house’ chemical libraries and modification of promising hits. Pyrimidine-2,4,6-triones were identified as a potential scaffold; structure-activity relationship-based modification of this scaffold led to 1-(3-chlorophenethyl)-3-cyclopentylpyrimidine-2,4,6-(1H,3H,5H)-trione (8), a potent and highly selective Ca(V)1.3 L-type calcium channel antagonist. The biological relevance was confirmed by whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology. These studies describe the first highly selective Ca(V)1.3 L-type calcium channel antagonist and point to a novel therapeutic strategy for Parkinson’s disease.

Concepts: Medicine, Ion channel, Electrophysiology, Ion channels, Calcium channel blocker, Voltage-dependent calcium channel, Calcium channel


Mutations in the leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) have been associated with familial and sporadic cases of Parkinson disease. Mutant LRRK2 causes in vitro and in vivo neurite shortening, mediated in part by autophagy, and a parkinsonian phenotype in transgenic mice; however, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Because mitochondrial content/function is essential for dendritic morphogenesis and maintenance, we investigated whether mutant LRRK2 affects mitochondrial homeostasis in neurons. Mouse cortical neurons expressing either LRRK2 G2019S or R1441C mutations exhibited autophagic degradation of mitochondria and dendrite shortening. In addition, mutant LRRK2 altered the ability of the neurons to buffer intracellular calcium levels. Either calcium chelators or inhibitors of voltage-gated L-type calcium channels prevented mitochondrial degradation and dendrite shortening. These data suggest that mutant LRRK2 causes a deficit in calcium homeostasis, leading to enhanced mitophagy and dendrite shortening.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Neuron, Metabolism, Parkinson's disease, Axon, Dendrite, Voltage-dependent calcium channel, LRRK2


N-type voltage-gated calcium channels localize to presynaptic nerve terminals and mediate key events including synaptogenesis and neurotransmission. While several kinases have been implicated in the modulation of calcium channels, their impact on presynaptic functions remains unclear. Here we report that the N-type calcium channel is a substrate for cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (Cdk5). The pore-forming α(1) subunit of the N-type calcium channel is phosphorylated in the C-terminal domain, and phosphorylation results in enhanced calcium influx due to increased channel open probability. Phosphorylation of the N-type calcium channel by Cdk5 facilitates neurotransmitter release and alters presynaptic plasticity by increasing the number of docked vesicles at the synaptic cleft. These effects are mediated by an altered interaction between N-type calcium channels and RIM1, which tethers presynaptic calcium channels to the active zone. Collectively, our results highlight a molecular mechanism by which N-type calcium channels are regulated by Cdk5 to affect presynaptic function.

Concepts: Neuron, Signal transduction, Action potential, Electrophysiology, Kinase, Ion channels, Integral membrane proteins, Voltage-dependent calcium channel


As a general rule a rise in pH increases neuronal activity, whereas it is dampened by a fall of pH. Neuronal activity per se also challenges pH homeostasis by the increase of metabolic acid equivalents. Moreover, the negative membrane potential of neurons promotes the intracellular accumulation of protons. Synaptic key players such as glutamate receptors or voltage-gated calcium channels show strong pH dependence and effects of pH gradients on synaptic processes are well known. However, the processes and mechanisms that allow controlling the pH in synaptic structures and how these mechanisms contribute to normal synaptic function are only beginning to be resolved.

Concepts: Neuron, Acid, Proton, Ion channel, Voltage-gated ion channel, Membrane biology, Membrane potential, Voltage-dependent calcium channel


The growth of neuritic processes in developing neurons is tightly controlled by a wide set of extracellular cues that act by initiating downstream signaling cascades, where calcium signals play a major role. Here we analyze the calcium dependence of the neurite growth promoted by basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF or FGF-2) in chick embryonic ciliary ganglion neurons, taking advantage of dissociated, organotypic, and compartmentalized cultures. We report that signals at both the growth cone and the soma are involved in the promotion of neurite growth by the factor. Blocking calcium influx through L- and N-type voltage-dependent calcium channels and transient receptor potential canonical (TRPC) channels reduces, while release from intracellular stores does not significantly affect, the growth of neuritic processes. Simultaneous recordings of calcium signals elicited by FGF-2 at the soma and at the growth cone show that the factor activates different patterns of responses in the two compartments: steady and sustained responses at the former, oscillations at the latter. At the soma, both voltage-dependent channel and TRPC blockers strongly affect steady-state levels. At the growth cone, the changes in the oscillatory pattern are more complex; therefore, we used a tool based on wavelet analysis to obtain a quantitative evaluation of the effects of the two classes of blockers. We report that the oscillatory behavior at the growth cone is dramatically affected by all the blockers, pointing to a role for calcium influx through the two classes of channels in the generation of signals at the leading edge of the elongating neurites.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Ion channel, Affect, Fibroblast growth factor, Parasympathetic nervous system, Voltage-dependent calcium channel, Basic fibroblast growth factor


OBJECTIVES: This study sought to assess the effects of tranilast on atrial remodeling in a canine atrial fibrillation (AF) model. BACKGROUND: Tranilast inhibits transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 and prevents fibrosis in many pathophysiological settings. However, the effects of tranilast on atrial remodeling remain unclear. METHODS: Beagles were subjected to atrial tachypacing (400 beats/min) for 4 weeks while treated with placebo (control dogs, n = 8) or tranilast (tranilast dogs, n = 10). Sham dogs (n = 6) did not receive atrial tachypacing. Atrioventricular conduction was preserved. Ventricular dysfunction developed in the control and tranilast dogs due to rapid ventricular responses. RESULTS: Atrial fibrillation duration (211 ± 57 s) increased, and AF cycle length and atrial effective refractory period shortened in controls, but these changes were suppressed in tranilast dogs (AF duration, 18 ± 10 s, p < 0.01 vs. control). The L-type calcium channel α1c (Cav1.2) micro ribonucleic acid expression decreased in control dogs (sham 1.38 ± 0.24 vs. control 0.65 ± 0.12, p < 0.01), but not in tranilast dogs (0.97 ± 0.14, p = not significant vs. sham). Prominent atrial fibrosis (fibrous tissue area, sham 0.8 ± 0.1 vs. control 9.3 ± 1.3%, p < 0.01) and increased expression of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase protein 1 were observed in control dogs but not in tranilast dogs (fibrous tissue area, 1.4 ± 0.2%, p < 0.01 vs. control). The TGF-β1 (sham 1.00 ± 0.07 vs. control 3.06 ± 0.87, p < 0.05) and Rac1 proteins were overexpressed in control dogs, but their overexpression was inhibited in tranilast dogs (TGF-β1, 1.28 ± 0.20, p < 0.05 vs. control). CONCLUSIONS: Tranilast prevented atrial remodeling and suppressed AF development in a canine model. Its inhibition of TGF-β1 and Rac1 overexpression may contribute to its antiremodeling effects.

Concepts: Blood, RNA, Heart, Atrial fibrillation, Enzyme inhibitor, Inhibitor, Atrioventricular node, Voltage-dependent calcium channel


The effects of gabapentin (GBP) and (S)-pregabalin (PGB) on the intracellular concentrations of D-serine and the expression of serine racemase (SR) in PC-12 cells were determined. Intracellular D-serine concentrations were determined using an enantioselective capillary electrophoresis assay with laser-induced fluorescence detection. Increasing concentrations of GBP, 0.1 - 20μM, produced a significant decrease in D-serine concentration relative to control, 22.9±6.7% at 20μM (*p<0.05), with an IC(50) value of 3.40±0.29μM. Increasing concentrations of PGB, 0.1 - 10μM, produced a significant decrease in D-serine concentration relative to control, 25.3±7.6% at 10μM (*p<0.05), with an IC(50) value of 3.38±0.21μM. The compounds had no effect on the expression of monomeric-SR or dimeric-SR as determined by Western blotting. The results suggest that incubation of PC-12 cells with GBP and PGB reduced the basal activity of SR, which is most likely a result of the decreased Ca(+2) flux produced via interaction of the drugs with the α(2-)δ subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels. D-serine is a co-agonist of the N-methyl D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) and reduced D-serine concentrations have been associated with reduced NMDAR activity. Thus, GBP and PGB may act as indirect antagonists of NMDAR, a mechanism that may contribute to the clinical effects of the drugs in neuropathic pain.

Concepts: Fluorescence, Molecular biology, Gel electrophoresis, Receptor antagonist, Serine, Voltage-dependent calcium channel, Neuropathic pain, Serine racemase


Although pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) exposure has been reported to promote neuronal differentiation, the mechanism is still unclear. Here, we aimed to examine the effects of PEMF exposure on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) mRNA expression and the correlation between the intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca(2+)]i) and Bdnf mRNA expression in cultured dorsal root ganglion neurons (DRGNs). Exposure to 50 Hz and 1 mT PEMF for 2 h increased the level of [Ca(2+)]i and Bdnf mRNA expression, which was found to be mediated by increased [Ca(2+)]i from Ca(2+) influx through L-type voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs). However, calcium mobilization was not involved in the increased [Ca(2+)]i and BDNF expression, indicating that calcium influx was one of the key factors responding to PEMF exposure. Moreover, PD098059, an extracellular signal-regulated kinase (Erk) inhibitor, strongly inhibited PEMF-dependant Erk1/2 activation and BDNF expression, indicating that Erk activation is required for PEMF-induced upregulation of BDNF expression. These findings indicated that PEMF exposure increased BDNF expression in DRGNs by activating Ca(2+)- and Erk-dependent signaling pathways.

Concepts: Neuron, Voltage-gated ion channel, Voltage-dependent calcium channel