Myocardial cells have two types of Ca channels commonly called T-type and L-type. Whole cell Ca channel currents in guinea pig atrial myocytes can be separated and quantitated by analyzing channel closing kinetics after a brief depolarization (tail current analysis). L-type Ca channels deactivate rapidly when the membrane is repolarized and T-type Ca channels deactivate relatively slowly. Ca channel block by the therapeutically useful Ca channel antagonists is voltage dependent, so it is desirable to study block of both channel types over an extended voltage range. Tail current analysis allows this and was used to study block of both types of Ca channels under identical conditions. Amiodarone, bepridil, and cinnarizine block T-type Ca channels more potently than L-type Ca channels when binding equilibrates at normal diastolic potentials (approximately -90 mV). None of these drugs is a selective blocker of T-type Ca channels because block of L-type Ca channels is enhanced when cells are almost completely depolarized. Although weak block of T-type Ca channels by 1,4-dihydropyridines has usually been reported, we found that felodipine blocks these channels with high affinity. When most T-type Ca channels are inactivated, the apparent dissociation constant (KI) is 13 nM. Felodipine also blocks T-type Ca channels in GH3 cells (a cell line derived from rat anterior pituitary), but KI = 700 nM. Thus, T-type Ca channels in different cell types are pharmacologically distinct. Felodipine can block L-type Ca channels in atrial cells more potently than T-type Ca channels, but block of L-type Ca channels is potent only at depolarized potentials; block of both channel types is comparable at normal diastolic membrane potentials. Felodipine and the 1,4-dihydropyridines isradipine and (-)-202-791 are approximately equipotent at blocking T-type Ca channels, but differ substantially in potency for block of L-type Ca channels. Block of T-type Ca channels may account for some of the pharmacological effects of 1,4-dihydropyridines and for the antiarrhythmic activity of amiodarone and bepridil.

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