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J Physiol. 2012 Oct 15;590(20):5091-106. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.234823. Epub 2012 Aug 13.

Calcium spike variability in cardiac myocytes results from activation of small cohorts of ryanodine receptor 2 channels.

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Institute of Molecular Physiology and Genetics, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Vl´arska 5, 833 34 Bratislava, Slovak Republic.


In mammalian cardiac myocytes, the elementary calcium releases triggered by step voltage stimuli manifest either as solitary or as twin spikes that vary widely in kinetics and amplitude for unknown reasons. Here we examined the variability of calcium spikes measured using line-scanning confocal microscopy in patch-clamped rat ventricular myocytes. Amplitude distributions of the single and of the first of twin spikes were broader than those of the second spikes. All could be best approximated by a sum of a few elementary Gaussian probability distribution functions. The latency distributions of the single and the first spikes were identical, much shorter and less variable than those of the second spikes. The multimodal distribution of spike amplitudes and the probability of occurrence of twin spikes were stochastically congruent with activation of only a few of the many RyR2 channels present in the release site cluster. The occurrence of twin release events was rare due to refractoriness of release, induced with a probability proportional to the number of RyR2s activated in the primary release event. We conclude that the variability of the elementary calcium release events supports a calcium signalling mechanism that arises from stochastics of RyR2 gating and from inactivation of local origin.

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