1. In the present study we have taken advantage of the unique anatomy of visceral sensory neurons that enabled us to isolate and examine the role of calcium channel subtypes at the soma, central synaptic terminals, and peripheral sensory endings. 2. N-type calcium channels dominated somatic currents (60%), with lesser (16% and 12%) contributions from P- and L-type channels, respectively, in patch-clamped dispersed nodose neurons using toxins selective for each calcium channel subtype. 3. These toxins also blocked the release of neurotransmitters from these visceral synaptic terminals in a brain stem slice. Similar to the profile at the soma, N-type calcium channels were most responsible for neurotransmission at this central glutamatergic synapse (57%), with P- and L-type channels making small contributions (12% and 11%, respectively). 4. In contrast to the soma and central synapses, these calcium channel toxins failed to affect the sensory transduction at aortic baroreceptor endings. 5. Therefore calcium channel subtypes have dramatically heterogenous distributions in sensory neurons that presumably subserve the specialized functions that occur at different cellular regions.
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