The patch-clamp technique was employed to investigate phosphorylation/dephosphorylation-dependent modulation of L-type Ca2+ channels in smooth-muscle cells isolated from human umbilical vein. Okadaic acid, an inhibitor of phosphoprotein phosphatases type 1 (PP1) and 2A (PP2A), increased the probability of channels being in the open state (Po) in intact cells. This increase in Po was due mainly to promotion of long-lasting channel openings, i.e. promotion of ‘mode 2’ gating behaviour. Exposure of the cytoplasmic side of excised patches of membrane to the purified catalytic subunit of PP2A (PP2Ac) resulted in the opposite modulation of channel function. PP2Ac (0.2 unit/ml) reduced the Po of Ca2+ channels mainly via suppression of ‘mode 2’ gating. This effect of PP2Ac was completely prevented by 1 µM okadaic acid. The catalytic subunit of PP1 (0.2 unit/ml), however, barely affected channel activity. Our results provide evidence for a PP2A-sensitive regulatory site that controls modal gating of L-type Ca2+ channels in smooth muscle.

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