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Biochem J. 1997 Sep 1;326 ( Pt 2):491-5.

Mechanism of long-range Ca2+ signalling in the nucleus of isolated rat hepatocytes.

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Department of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Utah, Salt Lake City 84112, USA.


Ca2+ regulates a wide range of cell proteins, in both the cytosol and nucleus. It enters the nucleus from stores along the nuclear envelope, but how it then spreads through the nuclear interior is unknown. Here we used high-speed confocal line-scanning microscopy to examine the propagation of Ca2+ waves across nuclei in isolated rat hepatocytes. Nuclear Ca2+ waves began at the nucleus/cytosol border as expected, then spread across the nucleus at less than half the speed of cytosolic Ca2+ waves. High concentrations of caffeine slowed Ca2+ waves in the cytosol but not in the nucleus. We developed a mathematical model based on diffusion to analyse these data, and the model was able to describe the nuclear but not cytosolic Ca2+ waves that were experimentally observed. These findings suggest that Ca2+ waves cross the nucleus by simple diffusion, which is distinct from the reaction-diffusion mechanism by which Ca2+ waves propagate across the cytosol. Since the range of messenger action for Ca2+ in the cytosol is much smaller than the distance across the nucleus, this also suggests that the unique environment and geometry of the nuclear interior may permit this simple mechanism of Ca2+ wave propagation to control Ca2+-mediated processes in a relatively large region despite Ca2+ release pools that are spatially limited.

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