Imaging elementary events of calcium release in skeletal muscle cells

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Science  22 Sep 1995:
Vol. 269, Issue 5231, pp. 1723-1726
DOI: 10.1126/science.7569901


In skeletal muscle cells, calcium release to trigger contraction occurs at triads, specialized junctions where sarcoplasmic reticulum channels are opened by voltage sensors in the transverse tubule. Scanning confocal microscopy was used in cells under voltage clamp to measure the concentration of intracellular calcium, [Ca2+]i, at individual triads and [Ca2+]i gradients that were proportional to calcium release. In cells stimulated with small depolarizations, the [Ca2+]i gradients broke down into elementary events, corresponding to single-channel currents of about 0.1 picoampere. Because these events were one-tenth to one-fifth the size of calcium sparks (elementary release events of cardiac muscle), skeletal muscle control mechanisms appear to be fundamentally different.