Extrinsic absorption changes exhibited by potentiometric dyes have established the ionic basis of the action potential in synchronously activated populations of nerve terminals in the intact neurohypophyses of amphibia and mammals (Salzberg et al., 1983; Obaid et al., 1983, 1985b). Also, large and rapid changes in light scattering, measured as transparency, have been shown to follow membrane depolarization and to be intimately associated with the release of neuropeptides from the nerve terminals of the mouse neurohypophysis (Salzberg et al., 1985; Gainer et al., 1986). We report some experiments that help to define the pharmacological profile of the calcium channels present in intact neurosecretory terminals of vertebrates. For these, we used the peptide toxin omega-conotoxin GVIA (1-5 microM) and the dihydropyridine compounds Bay-K 8644 and nifedipine (2-5 microM), together with the after-hyperpolarization of the nerve terminal action potential. This undershoot depends upon the activation of a calcium-mediated potassium channel, as suggested by its sensitivity to [Ca++]o and charybdotoxin. omega-conotoxin GVIA substantially reduced the after-hyperpolarization in neurosecretory terminals of Xenopus, while neither of the dihydropyridine compounds had any effect under conditions that mimic natural stimulation. The effects of these calcium channel modifiers on the action potential recorded optically from the terminals of the Xenopus neurohypophysis were faithfully reflected in the behavior of the light-scattering changes observed in the neurohypophysis of the CD-1 mouse. omega-conotoxin GVIA (5 microM) reduced the size of the intrinsic optical signal associated with secretion by 50%, while the dihydropyridines had little effect. These observations suggest that the type of calcium channel that dominates the secretory behavior of intact vertebrate nerve terminals is at least partially blocked by omega-conotoxin GVIA and is insensitive, under normal conditions, to dihydropyridines.

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