The control of calcium release in heart muscle

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Science  19 May 1995:
Vol. 268, Issue 5213, pp. 1045-1049
DOI: 10.1126/science.7754384


The control of calcium release from intracellular stores (the sarcoplasmic reticulum) in cardiac muscle was examined with the use of a confocal microscope and voltage clamp techniques. Depolarization evoked graded calcium release by altering the extent of spatial and temporal summation of elementary calcium release events called "calcium sparks." These evoked sparks were triggered by local L-type calcium channel currents in a stochastic manner, were similar at different potentials, and resembled spontaneous calcium sparks. Once triggered, the calcium release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum during a calcium spark was independent of the duration of the triggering calcium influx. These results were used to develop a unifying model for cardiac excitation-contraction coupling that explains the large (but paradoxically stable) amplification of the trigger calcium influx by a combination of digital and analog behavior.

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