Regional changes in calcium underlying contraction of single smooth muscle cells

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Science  27 Mar 1987:
Vol. 235, Issue 4796, pp. 1644-1648
DOI: 10.1126/science.3103219


The role of calcium in regulating the contractile state of smooth muscle has been investigated by measuring calcium and contraction in single smooth muscle cells with the calcium-sensitive dye fura-2 and the digital imaging microscope. The concentration of free calcium in the cytoplasm increased after stimulation of the cells by depolarization with high potassium or by application of carbachol. Changes in calcium always preceded contraction. The increase in calcium induced by these stimuli was limited to less than 1 microM. Calcium within the nucleus was also subject to a limitation of its rise during contraction. Intranuclear calcium rose from 200 nM at rest to no more than 300 nM while cytoplasmic calcium rose to over 700 nM. These apparent ceilings for both cytoplasmic and intranuclear calcium may result either from negative feedback of calcium on cytoplasmic and nuclear calcium channel gating mechanisms, respectively, or from the presence of calcium pumps that are strongly activated at the calcium ceilings.

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