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In sympathetic neurons innervating the heart, action potentials activate voltage-gated Ca2+ channels and evoke Ca2+ entry into presynaptic terminals triggering neurotransmitter release. Binding of transmitters to specific receptors stimulates signal transduction pathways that cause changes in cardiac function. The mechanisms contributing to presynaptic Ca2+ dynamics involve regulation of endogenous Ca2+ buffers, in particular the endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria and cyclic nucleotide targeted pathways. The purpose of this review is to summarize and highlight recent findings about Ca2+ homeostasis in cardiac sympathetic neurons and how modulation of second messengers can drive neurotransmission and affect myocyte excitability in cardiovascular disease. Moreover, we discuss the underlying mechanism of abnormal intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis and signaling in these neurons, and speculate on the role of phosphodiesterases as a therapeutic target to restore normal autonomic transmission in disease states of overactivity.

Original publication




Journal article


Seminars in cell & developmental biology

Publication Date



Burdon Sanderson Cardiac Science Centre, Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, Sherrington Building, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PT, UK. Electronic address: