Calcium-selective microelectrodes were used to measure the free calcium-ion concentration ([Ca2+]i) in early-cleaving embryonic cells of the golden medaka, Oryzias latipes, a fresh water teleost fish. Embryos could be dechorionated as early as the four-cell stage using a three-step technique consisting of removal of some yolk to enlarge the perivitelline space, partial digestion of the chorion with pancreatin, and removal of the weakened chorion with forceps. Dechorionated embryos underwent cleavage at a normal rate. Intracellular cytosolic [Ca2+]i was monitored by impaling blastomeres first with a microelectrode filled with 5 M potassium acetate to measure membrane potential, and a few minutes later with a calcium-selective microelectrode. During nine rounds of cytokinesis from a total of six different embryos, cytosolic [Ca2+]i remained constant (with apparently random fluctuations of less than +/- 0.1 microM). During two successive cleavages in one embryo, however, [Ca2+]i rose transiently fourfold above the original resting level to 1.32 and 1.20 microM in synchrony with each period of cytokinesis and returned after each rise to submicromolar levels. Because a calcium-selective microelectrode can detect [Ca2+]i changes only in the immediate vicinity of its 2-microns tip, we interpreted these data to suggest that, although [Ca2+]i in most areas of the cytosol remains between 0.01 and 0.40 microM (mean of 0.14 microM), there may be small regions of the cell in which [Ca2+]i undergoes a substantial increase at the time of cleavage. Evidence also is presented to suggest that the membrane potential in these blastomeres undergoes a slow net hyperpolarization during early cleavage stages.

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