Calcium channels as target sites of heavy metals

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Zinc (Zn), aluminium (Al), mercury (Hg), methylmercury (MeHg) and lead (Pb) extracellulary applied reduce voltage-activated calcium channel currents (VACCCs); Pb and Al also reduce AT-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)activated channel currents (NACCs). Pb is most effective in reducing VACCCs, with an IC50of 0.46 μM, followed by Hg (IC50 = 1.1 μM) and MeHg (IC50 = 2.6 μM). Zn and Al were less potent (IC50 = 69 and 84 μM, respectively). Al acts on channels in the open state; its effect is pH dependent. The effects of Pb were specific for VACCCs and NACCs. Hg, Al and Zn had only minor effects on voltage-activated potassium and sodium channels, while MeHg reduced potassium channel currents (IC50 = 2.2 μM) and, at higher concentrations, sodium channel currents (IC50 = 12.3 μM). Al also reduced other receptor-activated channel currents. These results demonstrate that a variety of metal species produce different actions at the level of the cell membrane.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-261
Number of pages7
JournalToxicology Letters
Issue numberC
Publication statusPublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes



  • Aluminum (Al)
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Methylmercury (MeHg)
  • NMDA-activated channel currents (NACCs)
  • Voltage-activated calcium channel currents (VACCCs)
  • Zinc (Zn)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology

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