Motor nerve terminals possess multiple voltage-sensitive calcium channels operating acetylcholine (ACh) release. In this study, we investigated whether facilitation of neuromuscular transmission by adenosine generated during neuronal firing was operated by Ca2+ influx via ‘prevalent’ P-type or via the recruitment of ‘silent’ L-type channels. The release of [3H]ACh from rat phrenic nerve endings decreased upon increasing the stimulation frequency of the trains (750 pulses) from 5 Hz (83 ± 4 × 103 disintegrations per minute per gram (d.p.m. g−1); n = 11) to 50 Hz (30 ± 3 × 103 d.p.m. g−1; n = 5). The P-type Ca2+ channel blocker, ω-agatoxin IVA (100 nm) reduced (by 40 ± 10%; n = 6) the release of [3H]ACh evoked by 50-Hz trains, while nifedipine (1 μm, an L-type blocker) was inactive. Tetanic depression was overcome (88 ± 6 × 103 d.p.m. g−1; n = 12) by stimulating the phrenic nerve with 50-Hz bursts (five bursts of 150 pulses, 20 s interburst interval). In these conditions, ω-agatoxin IVA (100 nm) failed to affect transmitter release, but nifedipine (1 μm) decreased [3H]ACh release by 21 ± 7% (n = 4). Inactivation of endogenous adenosine with adenosine deaminase (ADA, 0.5 U ml−1) reduced (by 54 ± 8%, n = 5) the release of [3H]ACh evoked with 50-Hz bursts. This effect was opposite to the excitatory actions of adenosine (0.5 mm), S-(p-nitrobenzyl)-6-thioinosine (5 μm, an adenosine uptake blocker) and CGS 21680C (3 nm, a selective A2A receptor agonist); as the A1 receptor agonist R-N6-phenylisopropyl adenosine (R-PIA, 300 nm) failed to affect the release of [3H]ACh, the results indicate that adenosine generated during 50-Hz bursts exerts an A2A-receptor-mediated tonus. The effects of ADA (0.5 U ml−1) and CGS 21680C (3 nm) were prevented by nifedipine (1 μm). Blocking tonic A2A receptor activation, with ADA (0.5 U ml−1) or 3,7-dimethyl-1-propargyl xanthine (10 μm, an A2A antagonist), recovered ω-agatoxin IVA (100 nm) inhibition and caused the loss of function of nifedipine (1 μm). Data indicate that, in addition to the predominant P-type Ca2+ current triggering ACh release during brief tetanic trains, motoneurones possess L-type channels that may be recruited to facilitate transmitter release during high-frequency bursts. The fine-tuning control of Ca2+ influx through P- or L-type channels is likely to be mediated by endogenous adenosine. Therefore, tonic activation of presynaptic A2A receptors operating Ca2+ influx via L-type channels may contribute to overcome tetanic depression during neuronal firing
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