Author + information
- Received October 24, 1995
- Revision received March 1, 1996
- Accepted April 2, 1996
- Published online August 1, 1996.
- Arnold M. Katz, MD, DMed (Hon), FACC*
- ↵*Address for correspondence: Dr. Arnold M. Katz, Division of Cardiology, University of Connecticut Health Center, 263 Farmington, Connecticut 060301305.
The flux of calcium ions (Ca2+) into the cytosol, where they serve as intracellular messengers, is regulated by two distinct families of Ca2+ channel proteins. These are the intracellular Ca2+ release channels, which allow Ca2+ to enter the cytosol from intracellular stores, and the plasma membrane Ca2+ channels, which control Ca2+ entry from the extracellular space. Each of these two families of channel proteins contains several subgroups. The intracellular channels include the large Ca2+ channels (“ryanodine receptors”) that participate in cardiac and skeletal muscle excitation-contraction coupling, and smaller inositol trisphosphate (InsP3)—activated Ca2+ channels. The latter serve several functions, including the pharmacomechanical coupling that activates smooth muscle contraction, and possibly regulation of diastolic tone in the heart. The InsP3-activated Ca2+ channels may also participate in signal transduction systems that regulate cell growth. The family of plasma membrane Ca2+ channels includes L-type channels, which respond to membrane depolarization by generating a signal that opens the intracellular Ca2+ release channels. Calcium ion entry through L-type Ca2+ channels in the sinoatrial (SA) node contributes to pacemaker activity, whereas L-type Ca2+ channels in the atrioventricular (AV) node are essential for AV conduction. The T-type Ca2+ channels, another member of the family of plasma membrane Ca2+ channels, participate in pharmacomechanical coupling in smooth muscle. Opening of these channels in response to membrane depolarization participates in SA node pacemaker currents, but their role in the working cells of the atria and ventricle is less clear. Like the InsP3-activated intracellular Ca2+ release channels, T-type plasma membrane channels may regulate cell growth. Because most of the familiar Ca2+ channel blocking agents currently used in cardiology, such as nifedipine, verapamil and diltiazem, are selective for L-type Ca2+ channels, the recent development of drugs that selectively block T-type Ca2+ channels offers promise of new approaches to cardiovascular therapy.
Preparation of this article was supported in part by an Educational Grant from Hoffman-LaRoche, Nutley, New Jersey.
- Received October 24, 1995.
- Revision received March 1, 1996.
- Accepted April 2, 1996.
- American College of Cardiology