Genes & development

CaV3.2 calcium channels control NMDA receptor-mediated transmission: a new mechanism for absence epilepsy.

PMID 26220996


CaV3.2 T-type calcium channels, encoded by CACNA1H, are expressed throughout the brain, yet their general function remains unclear. We discovered that CaV3.2 channels control NMDA-sensitive glutamatergic receptor (NMDA-R)-mediated transmission and subsequent NMDA-R-dependent plasticity of AMPA-R-mediated transmission at rat central synapses. Interestingly, functional CaV3.2 channels primarily incorporate into synapses, replace existing CaV3.2 channels, and can induce local calcium influx to control NMDA transmission strength in an activity-dependent manner. Moreover, human childhood absence epilepsy (CAE)-linked hCaV3.2(C456S) mutant channels have a higher channel open probability, induce more calcium influx, and enhance glutamatergic transmission. Remarkably, cortical expression of hCaV3.2(C456S) channels in rats induces 2- to 4-Hz spike and wave discharges and absence-like epilepsy characteristic of CAE patients, which can be suppressed by AMPA-R and NMDA-R antagonists but not T-type calcium channel antagonists. These results reveal an unexpected role of CaV3.2 channels in regulating NMDA-R-mediated transmission and a novel epileptogenic mechanism for human CAE.