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Cav3-type α1T calcium channels mediate transient calcium currents that regulate repetitive firing in Drosophila antennal lobe PNs.


Projection neurons (PNs), located in the antennal lobe region of the insect brain, play a key role in processing olfactory information. To explore how activity is regulated at the level of single PNs within this central circuit we have recorded from these neurons in adult Drosophila melanogaster brains. Our previous study demonstrated that PNs express voltage-gated calcium currents with a transient and sustained component. We found that the sustained component is mediated by cac gene-encoded Cav2-type channels involved in regulating action potential-independent release of neurotransmitter at excitatory cholinergic synapses. The function of the transient calcium current and the gene encoding the underlying channels, however, were unknown. Here we report that the transient current blocked by prepulse inactivation is sensitive to amiloride, a vertebrate Cav3-type channel blocker. In addition PN-specific RNAi knockdown of α1T, the Drosophila Cav3-type gene, caused a dramatic reduction in the transient current without altering the sustained component. These data demonstrate that the α1T gene encodes voltage-gated calcium channels underlying the amiloride-sensitive transient current. Alterations in evoked firing and spontaneous burst firing in the α1T knockdowns demonstrate that the Cav3-type calcium channels are important in regulating excitability in adult PNs.

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