Differential regulation of endogenous N- and P/Q-type Ca2+ channel inactivation by Ca2+/calmodulin impacts on their ability to support exocytosis in chromaffin cells

P/Q-type (CaV2.1) and N-type (CaV2.2) Ca2+ channels are critical to stimulus-secretion coupling in the nervous system; feedback regulation of these channels by Ca2+ is therefore predicted to profoundly influence neurotransmission. Here we report divergent regulation of Ca2+-dependent inactivation (CDI) of native N- and P/Q-type Ca2+ channels by calmodulin (CaM) in adult chromaffin cells. Robust CDI of N-type channels was observed in response to prolonged step depolarizations, as well as repetitive stimulation with either brief step depolarizations or action potential-like voltage stimuli. Adenoviral expression of Ca2+-insensitive calmodulin mutants eliminated CDI of N-type channels. This is the first demonstration of CaM-dependent CDI of a native N-type channel. CDI of P/Q-type channels was by comparison modest and insensitive to expression of CaM mutants. Cloning of the C terminus of the CaV2.1 α1 subunit from chromaffin cells revealed multiple splice variants lacking structural motifs required for CaM-dependent CDI. The physiological relevance of CDI on stimulus-coupled exocytosis was revealed by combining perforated-patch voltage-clamp recordings of pharmacologically isolated Ca2+ currents with membrane capacitance measurements of exocytosis. Increasing stimulus intensity to invoke CDI resulted in a significant decrease in the exocytotic efficiency of N-type channels compared with P/Q-type channels. Our results reveal unexpected diversity in CaM regulation of native CaV2 channels and suggest that the ability of individual Ca2+ channel subtypes to undergo CDI may be tailored by alternative splicing to meet the specific requirements of a particular cellular function.