Agonist- and voltage-gated calcium entry in cultured mouse spinal cord neurons under voltage clamp measured using arsenazo III.

M. L. Mayer, A. B. MacDermott, G. L. Westbrook, S. J. Smith, J. L. Barker

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194 Scopus citations


Spinal cord neurons is dissociated cell culture were loaded with the calcium indicator arsenazo III using the whole-cell patch-clamp recording technique. Under voltage-clamp, depolarizing voltage steps evoked transient increases in absorbance at 660 nm, with no change at 570 nm, the isosbestic wavelength for calcium-arsenazo III complexes. The optical response occurred with a threshold depolarization to -30 mV, peaked at +10 mV, and decreased with further depolarization, consistent with an elevation of cytoplasmic free calcium resulting from Ca2+ flux through voltage-dependent calcium channels. Inward current responses to the excitatory amino acids N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) and L-glutamate were also accompanied by calcium transients; these were dose-dependent, varied with the driving force for inward current, and were blocked by extracellular Mg2+ in a voltage-dependent manner, suggesting Ca2+ flux through NMDA-receptor channels. Responses to kainate, quisqualate, and GABA were not accompanied by comparable calcium transients. [Ca2+]i transients evoked by depolarizing voltage steps were of maximal amplitude at the start of recording and declined with time, reflecting rundown of voltage-dependent calcium channels. In contrast, [Ca2+]i transients evoked by NMDA gradually increased in amplitude during periods of whole-cell recording lasting 1-2 hr. Procedures resulting in loading of the neuron with Ca2+ accelerated the increase in amplitude of [Ca2+]i transients evoked by NMDA, but slowed the decay of [Ca2+]i transients evoked by voltage steps. Our results provide evidence for 2 independent sources of transmembrane Ca2+ flux in vertebrate neurons, through voltage-gated calcium channels and through NMDA-receptor channels. The Ca2+ flux gated by NMDA-receptor-specific agonists may play a role in synaptic plasticity, in regulating excitability, and in the excitotoxic response to excitatory amino acids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3230-3244
Number of pages15
JournalThe Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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