Modulation of neuronal voltage-gated calcium channels by farnesol

Jean Baptiste Roullet, Renee L. Spaetgens, Terry Burlingame, Zhong Ping Feng, Gerald W. Zamponi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The modulation of presynaptic voltage-dependent calcium channels by classical second messenger molecules such as protein kinase C and G protein βγ subunits is well established and considered a key factor for the regulation of neurotransmitter release. However, little is known of other endogenous mechanisms that control the activity of these channels. Here, we demonstrate a unique modulation of N-type calcium channels by farnesol, a dephosphorylated intermediate of the mammalian mevalonate pathway. At micromolar concentrations, farnesol acts as a relatively non-discriminatory rapid open channel blocker of all types of high voltage-activated calcium channels, with a mild specificity for L-type channels. However, at 250 nM, farnesol induces an N-type channel-specific hyperpolarizing shift in channel availability that results in ~50% inhibition at a typical neuronal resting potential. Additional experiments demonstrated the presence of farnesol in the brain (rodents and humans) at physiologically relevant concentrations (100-800 pmol/g (wet weight)). Altogether, our results indicate that farnesol is a selective, high affinity inhibitor of N-type Ca2+ channels and raise the possibility that endogenous farnesol and the mevalonate pathway are implicated in neurotransmitter release through regulation of presynaptic voltage-gated Ca2+ channels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25439-25446
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 3 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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