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OBJECTIVE: The L-type Ca(2+) current (I(Ca,L)) contributes to the generation and modulation of the pacemaker action potential (AP). We investigated facilitation of I(Ca,L) in sino-atrial cells. METHODS: Facilitation was studied in regularly-beating cells isolated enzymatically from young albino rabbits (0.8-1 kg). We used the whole-cell patch-clamp technique to vary the frequency of the test depolarizations evoked at -10 mV or the conditioning diastolic membrane potential prior to the test pulse. RESULTS: High frequencies (range 0.2-3.5 Hz) slowed the decay kinetics of I(Ca,L) evoked from a holding potential (HP) of -80 mV in 68% of cells resulting in a larger Ca(2+) influx during the test pulse. The amount of facilitation increased progressively between 0.2 and 3.0 Hz. When the frequency was changed from 0.1 to 1 Hz, the averaged increase in the time integral of I(Ca,L) was 27+/-7% (n=22). Application of conditioning voltages between -80 and -50 mV induced similar facilitation of I(Ca,L) in 73% of cells. The maximal increase of Ca(2+) entry occurred between -60 and -50 mV, and was on average 38+/-14% for conditioning prepulses of 5 s in duration (n=15). Numerical simulations of the pacemaker activity showed that facilitation of I(Ca,L) promotes stability of sino-atrial rate by enhancing Ca(2+) entry, thus establishing a negative feedback control against excessive heart rate slowing. CONCLUSION: Facilitation of I(Ca,L) is present in rabbit sino-atrial cells. The underlying mechanism reflects modulation of I(Ca,L) decay kinetics by diastolic membrane potential and frequency of depolarization. This phenomenon may provide an important regulatory mechanism of sino-atrial automaticity.

Original publication




Journal article


Cardiovasc Res

Publication Date





375 - 392


Animals, Calcium, Calcium Channels, L-Type, Computer Simulation, Electric Stimulation, Extracellular Space, Feedback, Membrane Potentials, Models, Cardiovascular, Myocardial Contraction, Patch-Clamp Techniques, Rabbits, Sinoatrial Node