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J Neurophysiol. 1998 Jun;79(6):3012-8.

Calcium-sensitive calcium influx in photoreceptor inner segments.

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Neuroscience Research Group, University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada.


The effect of external calcium concentration ([Ca2+]o) on membrane potential-dependent calcium signals in isolated tiger salamander rod and cone photoreceptor inner segments was investigated with patch-clamp and calcium imaging techniques. Mild depolarizations led to increases in intracellular Ca2+ levels ([Ca2+]i) that were smaller when [Ca2+]o was elevated to 10 mM than when it was 3 mM, even though maximum Ca2+ conductance increased 30% with the increase in [Ca2+]o. When external calcium was lowered to 1 mM [Ca2+]o, maximum Ca2+ conductance was reduced, as expected, but the mild depolarization-induced increase in [Ca2+]i was larger than in 3 mM [Ca2+]o. In contrast, when photoreceptors were strongly depolarized, the increase in [Ca2+]i was less when [Ca2+]o was reduced. An explanation for these observations comes from an assessment of Ca2+ channel gating in voltage-clamped photoreceptors under changing conditions of [Ca2+]o. Although Ca2+ conductance increased with increasing [Ca2+]o, surface charge effects dictated large shifts in the voltage dependence of Ca2+ channel gating. Relative to the control condition (3 mM [Ca2+]o), 10 mM [Ca2+]o shifted Ca2+ channel activation 8 mV positive, reducing channel open probability over a broad range of potentials. Reducing [Ca2+]o to 1 mM reduced Ca2+ conductance but shifted Ca2+ channel activation negative by 6 mV. Thus the intracellular calcium signals reflect a balance between competing changes in gating and permeation of Ca2+ channels mediated by [Ca2+]o. In mildly depolarized cells, the [Ca2+]o-induced changes in Ca2+ channel activation proved stronger than the [Ca2+]o-induced changes in conductance. In response to the larger depolarizations caused by 80 mM [K+]o, the opposite is true, with conductance changes dominating the effects on channel activation.

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