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Biophys J. 2011 Feb 16;100(4):931-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.01.017.

Single ryanodine receptor channel basis of caffeine's action on Ca2+ sparks.

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Department of Physiology, Midwestern University, Downers Grove, Illinois, USA.


Caffeine (1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine) is a widely used pharmacological agonist of the cardiac ryanodine receptor (RyR2) Ca(2+) release channel. It is also a well-known stimulant that can produce adverse side effects, including arrhythmias. Here, the action of caffeine on single RyR2 channels in bilayers and Ca(2+) sparks in permeabilized ventricular cardiomyocytes is defined. Single RyR2 caffeine activation depended on the free Ca(2+) level on both sides of the channel. Cytosolic Ca(2+) enhanced RyR2 caffeine affinity, whereas luminal Ca(2+) essentially scaled maximal caffeine activation. Caffeine activated single RyR2 channels in diastolic quasi-cell-like solutions (cytosolic MgATP, pCa 7) with an EC(50) of 9.0 ± 0.4 mM. Low-dose caffeine (0.15 mM) increased Ca(2+) spark frequency ∼75% and single RyR2 opening frequency ∼150%. This implies that not all spontaneous RyR2 openings during diastole are associated with Ca(2+) sparks. Assuming that only the longest openings evoke sparks, our data suggest that a spark may result only when a spontaneous single RyR2 opening lasts >6 ms.

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