Valenzuela D, Han X, Mende U, Fankhauser C, Mashimo H, Huang P, Pfeffer J, Neer EJ, Fishman MC. 1997. G alpha(o) is necessary for muscarinic regulation of Ca2+ channels in mouse heart. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 94(5):1727-32. Pubmed: 9050846


Heterotrimeric G proteins, composed of G alpha and G betagamma subunits, transmit signals from cell surface receptors to cellular effector enzymes and ion channels. The G alpha(o) protein is the most abundant G alpha subtype in the nervous system, but it is also found in the heart. Its function is not completely known, although it is required for regulation of N-type Ca2+ channels in GH3 cells and also interacts with GAP43, a major protein in growth cones, suggesting a role in neuronal pathfinding. To analyze the function of G alpha(o), we have generated mice lacking both isoforms of G alpha(o) by homologous recombination. Surprisingly, the nervous system is grossly intact, despite the fact that G alpha(o) makes up 0.2-0.5% of brain particulate protein and 10% of the growth cone membrane. The G alpha(o)-/- mice do suffer tremors and occasional seizures, but there is no obvious histologic abnormality in the nervous system. In contrast, G alpha(o)-/- mice have a clear and specific defect in ion channel regulation in the heart. Normal muscarinic regulation of L-type calcium channels in ventricular myocytes is absent in the mutant mice. The L-type calcium channel responds normally to isoproterenol, but there is no evident muscarinic inhibition. Muscarinic regulation of atrial K+ channels is normal, as is the electrocardiogram. The levels of other G alpha subunits (G alpha(s), G alpha(q), and G alpha(i)) are unchanged in the hearts of G alpha(o)-/- mice, but the amount of G betagamma is decreased. Whichever subunit, G alpha(o) or G betagamma, carries the signal forward, these studies show that muscarinic inhibition of L-type Ca2+ channels requires coupling of the muscarinic receptor to G alpha(o). Other cardiac G alpha subunits cannot substitute.

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Photo of Mark C. Fishman

Mark C. Fishman’s group studies the heart-brain connection. They employ a range of genetic, developmental, and neurobiological tools in zebrafish to understand what the heart tells the brain, and how critical internal sensory systems adjust homeostatic and somatic behaviors, including social interactions.

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