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Elevations of intracellular calcium reflect normal voltage-dependent behavior, and not constitutive activity, of voltage-dependent calcium channels in gastrointestinal and vascular smooth muscle

McCarron, J.G. and Olson, M. and Currie, S. and Wright, A. and Anderson, K.I. and Girkin, J.M. (2009) Elevations of intracellular calcium reflect normal voltage-dependent behavior, and not constitutive activity, of voltage-dependent calcium channels in gastrointestinal and vascular smooth muscle. Journal of General Physiology, 133 (4). pp. 439-457. ISSN 0022-1295

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In smooth muscle, the gating of dihydropyridine-sensitive Ca2+ channels may either be stochastic and voltage dependent or coordinated among channels and constitutively active. Each form of gating has been proposed to be largely responsible for Ca2+ influx and determining the bulk average cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration. Here, the contribution of voltage-dependent and constitutively active channel behavior to Ca2+ signaling has been studied in voltage-clamped single vascular and gastrointestinal smooth muscle cells using wide-field epifluorescence with near simultaneous total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. Depolarization (-70 to +10 mV) activated a dihydropyridine-sensitive voltage-dependent Ca2+ current (ICa) and evoked a rise in [Ca2+] in each of the subplasma membrane space and bulk cytoplasm. In various regions of the bulk cytoplasm the [Ca2+] increase ([Ca2+]c) was approximately uniform, whereas that of the subplasma membrane space ([Ca2+]PM) had a wide range of amplitudes and time courses. The variations that occurred in the subplasma membrane space presumably reflected an uneven distribution of active Ca2+ channels (clusters) across the sarcolemma, and their activation appeared consistent with normal voltage-dependent behavior. Indeed, in the present study, dihydropyridine-sensitive Ca2+ channels were not normally constitutively active. The repetitive localized [Ca2+]PM rises ("persistent Ca2+ sparklets") that characterize constitutively active channels were observed rarely (2 of 306 cells). Neither did dihydropyridine-sensitive constitutively active Ca2+ channels regulate the bulk average [Ca2+]c. A dihydropyridine blocker of Ca2+ channels, nimodipine, which blocked ICa and accompanying [Ca2+]c rise, reduced neither the resting bulk average [Ca2+]c (at -70 mV) nor the rise in [Ca2+]c, which accompanied an increased electrochemical driving force on the ion by hyperpolarization (-130 mV). Activation of protein kinase C with indolactam-V did not induce constitutive channel activity. Thus, although voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels appear clustered in certain regions of the plasma membrane, constitutive activity is unlikely to play a major role in [Ca2+]c regulation. The stochastic, voltage-dependent activity of the channel provides the major mechanism to generate rises in [Ca2+].