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J Clin Invest. 1993 Feb;91(2):595-601.

Heterogeneous response to calcium by individual parathyroid cells.

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Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905.


Classical stimulus-secretion theory suggests that each individual cell responds to a given stimulus. We tested this theory by determining the response of single bovine parathyroid cells to calcium with the reverse hemolytic plaque assay (RHPA), an assay that measures hormone release from individual cells. As calcium concentrations decreased, the amount of parathyroid hormone (PTH) released per cell increased, and cells were recruited to release PTH. To confirm that adequate stores of PTH were present, immunocytochemistry and in situ hybridization were performed. To test if cells that did not release PTH were capable of secretion, we performed a sequential RHPA; 47.8% of cells did not release PTH after the first stimulus. After the second exposure to low concentrations of calcium, 26.5% of these "nonsecretory" cells were able to release PTH. We conclude that parathyroid cells are homogeneous for PTH content and synthetic capability. Parathyroid cells respond to changes in extracellular calcium heterogeneously in that more PTH per cell is released, and individual parathyroid cells are "recruited" to release PTH at low calcium concentrations. In addition, parathyroid cells can be induced to secrete suggesting that cells are viable but in a depressed secretory state. Parathyroid cells may exist in an "on" or "off" secretory state.

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