The electrical communication network in the mouse pancreatic acinar tissue has been investigated using simultaneous intracellular recording with two separate microelectrodes and direct microscopical control of the localizations of the microelectrode tips. All cells within one acinus were electrically coupled, and the coupling coefficient (the electrotonic potential change in a cell neighboring to the cell into which current is injected [V2] divided by the electrotonic potential change in the cell of current injection [V1]) between two cells near each other (less than 50 micron) was always close to 1. Cells farther apart (50-100 micron) were, in some cases, coupled; in other cases, there was no coupling at all. Coupling coefficients varied between 0 and 1. There was rarely electrical coupling over distances of more than 110 micron. Using microiontophoretic acetylcholine (ACh) application, it was possible to evoke almost complete electrical uncoupling of two previously coupled pancreatic or lacrimal acinar cells from different acini or within one acinus. The effects were fully and quickly reversible. While the ACh-evoked uncoupling in the pancreas was associated with membrane depolarization, ACh caused hyperpolarization in the lacrimal acinar cells. The uncoupling was associated with a very marked reduction in electrical time constant, indicating a reduction in input capacitance (effective surface cell membrane area). The concentrations of stimulants needed to evoke reduction in pancreatic cell-to-cell coupling were 1 micron for ACh, 0.14 nM for caerulein, and 3 nM for bombesin. These concentrations are smaller than those required to evoke maximal enzyme secretion.

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