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Keywords:

  • α-latrotoxin;
  • calcium influx;
  • cationic channels;
  • ionophore;
  • presynaptic

Abstract

In order to explore the mechanisms by which α-latrotoxin activates neurotransmitter release, we have characterized its effects by patch-clamp methods on cells heterologously expressing its receptors, latrophilin-1 or neurexin-Iα. Application of α-latrotoxin (1 n m) to cells expressing rat latrophilin or neurexin, but not mock-transfected cells, induced a cationic conductance. In cells expressing latrophilin, current development was slow in the absence of divalent cations, but was accelerated by Ca2+ or Mg2+. In cells expressing neurexin, α-latrotoxin did not elicit currents in the absence of Ca2+. The toxin-induced conductance was rectifying, persistent, permeable to monovalent and divalent cations, but blocked by La3+. Single-channel recording revealed a permanently open state, with the same unitary conductance irrespective of whether cells expressed latrophilin or neurexin. Therefore, while pore formation displayed differences consistent with the reported properties of α-latrotoxin binding to latrophilin and neurexin, the pores induced by α-latrotoxin had identical properties. These results suggest that after anchoring to either of its nerve terminal receptors, α-latrotoxin inserts into the membrane and constitutes a single type of transmembrane ion pore.