Human neutrophils exhibit multiple increases in cytosolic free calcium concentration [( Ca2+]i) spontaneously and in response to the chemoattractant N-formyl-L-methionyl-L-leucyl-L-phenylalanine (Jaconi, M. E. E., R. W. Rivest, W. Schlegel, C. B. Wollheim, D. Pittet, and P. D. Lew. 1988. J. Biol. Chem. 263:10557-10560). The function of these repetitive increases in [Ca2+]i, as well as the role of Ca2+ in human neutrophil migration, remain unresolved. We have used microspectrofluorometry to measure [Ca2+]i in single fura-2-loaded human neutrophils as they moved on poly-D-lysine-coated glass in the presence of serum. To investigate the role of Ca2+ in human neutrophil migration, we examined cells in the presence and absence of extracellular Ca2+, as well as intracellular Ca2(+)-buffered and Ca2(+)-depleted cells. In the presence of extracellular Ca2+, multiple increases and decreases in [Ca2+]i were frequently observed, and at least one such transient increase in [Ca2+]i occurred in every moving cell during chemokinesis, chemotaxis, and phagocytosis. In addition, neutrophils that extended pseudopodia and assumed a polarized morphology after plating onto a surface were always observed to exhibit [Ca2+]i transients even in the absence of chemoattractant. In contrast, a [Ca2+]i transient was observed in only one of the nonpolarized stationary cells that were examined (n = 15). Although some cells exhibited relatively periodic increases and decreases in [Ca2+]i, resembling the regular oscillations that have been observed in some cell types, many others exhibited increases and decreases in [Ca2+]i that varied in their timing, magnitude, and duration. Buffering of [Ca2+]i or removal of extracellular Ca2+ damped out or blocked transient increases in [Ca2+]i and reduced or inhibited the migration of neutrophils. Under these conditions, polarized cells were often observed to make repeated attempts at migration, but they remained anchored at their rear. These data suggest that transient increases in [Ca2+]i may be required for the migration of human neutrophils on poly-D-lysine-coated glass in the presence of serum by allowing them to release from previous sites of attachment.

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