Expression, spatial distribution and specific roles of different Ca 2+ channels in stimulus-secretion coupling of chromaffin cells are intriguing issues still open to discussion. Most of the evidence supports a role of high-voltage activated (HVA) Ca2+ channels (L-, N-, P/Q- and R-types) in the control of exocytosis: some suggesting a preferential coupling of specific Ca2+ channel subunits with the secretory apparatus, others favoring the idea of a contribution to secretion proportional to the expression density and gating properties of Ca2+ channels. In this work we review recent findings and bring new evidence in favor of the hypothesis that also the LVA (low-voltage-activated, T-type) Ca2+ channels effectively control fast exocytosis near resting potential in adrenal chromaffin cells of adult rats. T-type channels recruited after long-term treatments with pCPT-cAMP (or chronic hypoxia) are shown to control exocytosis with the same efficacy of L-type channels, which are the dominant Ca2+ channel types expressed in rodent chromaffin cells. A rigorous comparison of T- and L-type channel properties shows that, although operating at different potentials and with different voltage-sensitivity, the two channels possess otherwise similar Ca2+-dependence of exocytosis, size and kinetics of depletion of the immediately releasable pool and mobilize vesicles of the same quantal size. Thus, T- and L-type channels are coupled with the same Ca 2+-efficiency to the secretory apparatus and deplete the same number of vesicles ready for release. The major difference of the secretory signals controlled by the two channels appear to be the voltage range of operation, suggesting the idea that stressful conditions (hypoxia and persistent β-adrenergic stimulation) can lower the threshold of cell excitability by recruiting new Ca2+ channels and activate an additional source of catecholamine secretion.
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