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Cell Calcium. 2006 Jan;39(1):13-9. Epub 2005 Oct 19.

Calcium imaging of individual erythrocytes: problems and approaches.

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  • 1Institute for Molecular Cell Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Saarland University, 66421 Homburg/Saar, Germany.


Although in erythrocytes calcium is thought to be important in homeostasis, measurements of this ion concentration are generally seen as rather problematic because of the auto-fluorescence or absorption properties of the intracellular milieu. Here, we describe experiments to assess the usability of popular calcium indicators such as Fura-2, Indo-1 and Fluo-4. In our experiments, Fluo-4 turned out to be the preferable indicator because (i) its excitation and emission properties were least influenced by haemoglobin and (ii) it was the only dye for which excitation light did not lead to significant auto-fluorescence of the erythrocytes. From these results, we conclude that the use of indicators such as Fura-2 together with red blood cells has to be revisited critically. We thus utilized Fluo-4 in erythrocytes to demonstrate a robust but heterogeneous calcium increase in these cells upon stimulation by prostaglandin E(2) and lysophosphatidic acid. For the latter stimulus, we recorded emission spectra of individual erythrocytes to confirm largely unaltered Fluo-4 emission. Our results emphasize that in erythrocytes measurements of intracellular calcium are reliably possible with Fluo-4 and that other indicators, especially those requiring UV-excitation, appear less favourable.

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