Ca2+- and voltage-dependent BK-type K+ channels contribute to action potential repolarization in rat adrenal chromaffin cells. Here we characterize the Ca2+ currents expressed in these cells and identify the Ca2+ channel subtypes that gate the activation of BK channels during Ca2+ influx. Selective Ca2+ channel antagonists indicate the presence of at least four types of high-voltage-gated Ca2+ channels: L-, N-, P, and Q type. Mean amplitudes of the L-, N-, P-, and Q-type Ca2+ currents were 33, 21, 12, and 24% of the total Ca2+ current, respectively. Five-millisecond Ca2+ influx steps to 0 mV were employed to assay the contribution of Ca2+ influx through these Ca2+ channels to the activation of BK current. Blockade of L-type Ca2+ channels by 5 μM nifedipine or Q-type Ca2+ channels by 2 μM Aga IVA reduced BK current activation by 77 and 42%, respectively. In contrast, blockade of N-type Ca2+ channels by brief applications of 1-2 μM CnTC MVIIC or P-type Ca2+ channels by 50-100 nM Aga IVA reduced BK current activation by only 11 and 12%, respectively. Selective blockade of L- and Q-type Ca2+ channels also eliminated activation of BK current during action potentials, whereas almost no effects were seen by the selective blockade of N-or P-type Ca2+ channels. Finally, the L-type Ca2+ channel agonist Bay K 8644 promoted activation of BK current by brief Ca2+ influx steps by more than twofold. These data show that, despite the presence of at least four types of Ca2+ channels in rat chromaffin cells, BK channel activation in rat chromaffin cells is predominantly coupled to Ca2+ influx through L- and Q-type Ca2+ channels.
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