Global Ca2+ transients have been observed to precede nuclear envelope breakdown and the onset of anaphase in Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts in 8% (vol/vol) FBS. The occurrence of these Ca2+ transients was dependent on intracellular stores. These Ca2+ transients could be (a) abolished by serum removal without halting mitosis, and (b) eliminated by increasing intracellular Ca2+ buffering capacity through loading the cells with 1,2-bis(2-aminophenoxy)ethane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (BAPTA) buffer, via the tetra(acetoxymethyl) ester, without hindering the transition into anaphase. Microinjection of sufficient concentrations of BAPTA buffer could block nuclear envelope breakdown. Pulses of Ca2+ generated by flash photolysis of intracellularly trapped nitr-5, a "caged" Ca2+, could precipitate precocious nuclear envelope breakdown in prophase cells. In metaphase cells, photochemically generated Ca2+ pulses could cause changes in the appearance of the chromosomes, but the length of time required for cells to make the transition from metaphase to anaphase remained essentially unchanged regardless of whether a Ca2+ pulse was photoreleased during metaphase. The results from these photorelease experiments were not dependent on the presence of serum in the medium. Discharging intracellular Ca2+ stores with ionomycin in the presence of 1.8 mM extracellular Ca2+ doubled the time for cells to pass from late metaphase into anaphase, whereas severe Ca2+ deprivation by treatment with ionomycin in EGTA-containing medium halted mitosis. Our results collectively indicate that Ca2+ is actively involved in nuclear envelope breakdown, but Ca2+ signals are likely unnecessary for the metaphase-anaphase transition in Swiss 3T3 fibroblasts. Additional studies of intracellular Ca2+ concentrations in mitotic REF52 and PtK1 cells revealed that Ca2+ transients are not observed at all mitotic stages in all cells. The absence of observable global Ca2+ transients, where calcium buffers can block and pulses of Ca2+ can advance mitotic stages, may imply that the relevant Ca2+ movements are too local to be detected.

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