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J Neurophysiol. 1999 Aug;82(2):540-50.

Ca(2+)-induced Ca(2+) release activates spontaneous miniature outward currents (SMOCs) in parasympathetic cardiac neurons.

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Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA.


Mudpuppy parasympathetic cardiac neurons exhibit spontaneous miniature outward currents (SMOCs) that are thought to be due to the activation of clusters of large conductance Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels (BK channels) by localized release of Ca(2+) from internal stores close to the plasma membrane. Perforated-patch whole cell recordings were used to determine whether Ca(2+)-induced Ca(2+) release (CICR) is involved in SMOC generation. We confirmed that BK channels are involved by showing that SMOCs are inhibited by 100 nM iberiotoxin or 500 microM tetraethylammonium (TEA), but not by 100 nM apamin. SMOC frequency is decreased in solutions that contain 0 Ca(2+)/3.6 mM Mg(2+), and also in the presence of 1 microM nifedipine and 3 microM omega-conotoxin GVIA, suggesting that SMOC activation is dependent on calcium influx. However, Ca(2+) influx alone is not sufficient; SMOC activation is also dependent on Ca(2+) release from the caffeine- and ryanodine-sensitive Ca(2+) store, because exposure to 2 mM caffeine consistently caused an increase in SMOC frequency, and 10-100 microM ryanodine altered the configuration of SMOCs and eventually inhibited SMOC activity. Depletion of intracellular Ca(2+) stores by the Ca-ATPase inhibitor cyclopiazonic acid (10 microM) inhibited SMOC activity, even when Ca(2+) influx was not compromised. We also tested the effects of the membrane-permeable Ca(2+) chelators, bis-(o-aminophenoxy)-N,N,N', N'-tetraacetic acid-AM (BAPTA-AM) and EGTA-AM. EGTA-AM (10 microM) caused no inhibition of SMOC activation, whereas 10 microM BAPTA-AM consistently inhibited SMOCs. After SMOCs were completely inhibited by BAPTA, 3 mM caffeine caused SMOC activity to resume. This effect was reversible on removal of caffeine and suggests that the source of Ca(2+) that triggers the internal Ca(2+) release channel is different from the source of Ca(2+) that activates clusters of BK channels. We propose that influx of Ca(2+) through voltage-dependent Ca(2+) channels is required for SMOC generation, but that the influx of Ca(2+) triggers CICR from intracellular stores, which then activates the BK channels responsible for SMOC generation.

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