Calcium channel blockers inhibit retinal degeneration in the retinal-degeneration-B mutant of Drosophila

Light accelerates degeneration of photoreceptor cells of the retinal degeneration B (rdgB) mutant of Drosophila. During early stages of degeneration, light stimuli evoke spikes from photoreceptors of the mutant fly; no spikes can be recorded from photoreceptors of the wild-type fly. Production of spike potentials from mutant photoreceptors was blocked by diltiazem, verapamil hydrochloride, and cadmium. Little, if any, effect of the (-)-cis isomer or (+)-cis isomer of diltiazem on the light response was seen. Further, the (+)-cis isomer was approximately 50 times more effective than the (-)-cis isomer in blocking the Ca2+ spikes, indicating that diltiazem action on the rdgB eye is mediated by means of blocking voltage-sensitive Ca2+ channels, rather than by blocking the light-sensitive channels. Application of the Ca(2+)-channel blockers (+)-cis-diltiazem and verapamil hydrochloride to the eyes of rdgB flies over a 7-day period largely inhibited light-dependent degeneration of the photoreceptor cells. Pulse labeling with [32P]phosphate showed much greater incorporation into eye proteins of [32P]phosphate in rdgB flies than in wild-type flies. Retarding the light-induced photoreceptor degeneration in the mutant by Ca(2+)-channel blockers, thus, suggests that toxic increase in intracellular Ca2+ by means of voltage-gated Ca2+ channels, possibly secondary to excessive phosphorylation, leads to photoreceptor degeneration in the rdgB mutant.

Authors: Sahly, I., S. Bar-Nachum, E. Suss-Toby, A. Rom, A. Peretz, J. Kleiman, T. Byke, Z. Selinger and B. Minke
Year of publication: 1992
Journal: PNAS, 89 (1) 435-439

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