Low voltage-activated T-type calcium (Ca) channels contribute to the normal development of the heart and are also implicated in pathophysiological states such as cardiac hypertrophy. Functionally distinct T-type Ca channel isoforms can be generated by alternative splicing from each of three different T-type genes (CaV3.1, CaV3.2, CaV3.3), although it remains to be described whether specific splice variants are associated with developmental states and pathological conditions. We aimed to identify and functionally characterize CaV3.2 T-type Ca channel alternatively spliced variants from newborn animals and to compare with adult normotensive and spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR). DNA sequence analysis of full-length CaV3.2 cDNA generated from newborn heart tissue identified ten major regions of alternative splicing, the more common variants of which were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) and also subject to functional examination by whole-cell patch clamp. The main findings are that: (1) cardiac CaV3.2 T-type Ca channels are subject to considerable alternative splicing, (2) there is preferential expression of CaV3.2(−25) splice variant channels in newborn rat heart with a developmental shift in adult heart that results in approximately equal levels of expression of both (+25) and (−25) exon variants, (3) in the adult stage of hypertensive rats there is both an increase in overall CaV3.2 expression and a shift towards expression of CaV3.2(+25) containing channels as the predominant form and (4) alternative splicing confers a variant-specific voltage-dependent facilitation of CaV3.2 channels. We conclude that CaV3.2 alternative splicing generates significant T-type Ca channel structural and functional diversity with potential implications relevant to cardiac developmental and pathophysiological states
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