Excitation-transcription coupling mediated by zinc influx through voltage-dependent calcium channels

Dan Atar, Peter H. Backx, Melissa M. Appel, Wei Dong Gao, Eduardo Marban

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Electrical activity initiates a program of selective gene expression in excitable cells. Although such transcriptional activation is commonly attributed to depolarization-induced changes in intracellular Ca2+, zinc represents a viable alternative given its prominent role as a cofactor in DNA-binding proteins coupled with evidence that Zn2+ can enter excitable cells in a voltage-dependent manner. Here it is shown that Zn2+ entry into heart cells depends upon electrical stimulation and occurs via dihydropyridine-sensitive Ca2+ channels. The addition of extracellular Zn2+ to spontaneously depolarizing GH3 pituitary tumor cells induced the expression of a reporter gene driven by the metallothionein promoter, an effect that was prevented by exposure to dihydropyridine Ca2+ channel blockers. Thus, Zn2+ influx through L-type Ca2+ channels can mediate voltage-dependent gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2473-2477
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 10 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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