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Biophys J. 2000 May;78(5):2298-306.

A bimodal pattern of InsP(3)-evoked elementary Ca(2+) signals in pancreatic acinar cells.

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Biomedical Imaging Group, Department of Physiology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts 01650 USA.


InsP(3)-evoked elementary Ca(2+) release events have been postulated to play a role in providing the building blocks of larger Ca(2+) signals. In pancreatic acinar cells, low concentrations of acetylcholine or the injection of low concentrations of InsP(3) elicit a train of spatially localized Ca(2+) spikes. In this study we have quantified these responses and compared the Ca(2+) signals to the elementary events shown in Xenopus oocytes. The results demonstrate, at the same concentrations of InsP(3), Ca(2+) signals consisting of one population of small transient Ca(2+) release events and a second distinct population of larger Ca(2+) spikes. The signal mass amplitudes of both types of events are within the range of amplitudes for the elementary events in Xenopus oocytes. However, the bimodal Ca(2+) distribution of Ca(2+) responses we observe is not consistent with the continuum of event sizes seen in Xenopus. We conclude that the two types of InsP(3)-dependent events in acinar cells are both elementary Ca(2+) signals, which are independent of one another. Our data indicate a complexity to the organization of the Ca(2+) release apparatus in acinar cells, which might result from the presence of multiple InsP(3) receptor isoforms, and is likely to be important in the physiology of these cells.

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