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EMBO J. 1997 Sep 1;16(17):5398-407.

Coordinated intercellular calcium waves induced by noradrenaline in rat hepatocytes: dual control by gap junction permeability and agonist.

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Unité de Recherche U.442, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, Université Paris Sud, IFR-FR 46, Bat. 443, 91405 Orsay, France.


Calcium-mobilizing agonists induce intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) changes thought to trigger cellular responses. In connected cells, rises in [Ca2+]i can propagate from cell to cell as intercellular Ca2+ waves, the mechanisms of which are not elucidated. Using fura2-loaded rat hepatocytes, we studied the mechanisms controlling coordination and intercellular propagation of noradrenaline-induced Ca2+ signals. Gap junction blockade with 18 alpha-glycyrrhetinic acid resulted in a loss of coordination between connected cells. We found that second messengers and [Ca2+]i rises in one hepatocyte cannot trigger Ca2+ responses in connected cells, suggesting that diffusion across gap junctions, while required for coordination, is not sufficient by itself for the propagation of intercellular Ca2+ waves. In addition, our experiments revealed functional differences between noradrenaline-induced Ca2+ signals in connected hepatocytes. These results demonstrate that intercellular Ca2+ signals in multicellular systems of rat hepatocytes are propagated and highly organized through complex mechanisms involving at least three factors. First, gap junction coupling ensures coordination of [Ca2+]i oscillations between the different cells; second, the presence of hormone at each hepatocyte is required for cell-cell Ca2+ signal propagation; and third, functional differences between adjacent connected hepatocytes could allow a 'pacemaker-like' intercellular spread of Ca2+ waves.

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