In Xenopus embryos, previous results failed to detect changes in the activity of free calcium ions (Ca2+i) during cell division using Ca2(+)-selective microelectrodes, while experiments with aequorin yielded uncertain results complicated by the variation during cell division of the aequorin concentration to cell volume ratio. We now report, using Ca2(+)-selective microelectrodes, that cell division in Xenopus embryos is accompanied by periodic oscillations of the Ca2+i level, which occur with a periodicity of 30 min, equal to that of the cell cycle. These Ca2+i oscillations were detected in 24 out of 35 experiments, and had a mean amplitude of 70 nM, around a basal Ca2+i level of 0.40 microM. Ca2+i oscillations did not take place in the absence of cell division, either in artificially activated eggs or in cleavage-blocked embryos. Therefore, Ca2+i oscillations do not represent, unlike intracellular pH oscillations (Grandin, N., and M. Charbonneau. J. Cell Biol. 111:523-532. 1990), a component of the basic cell cycle ("cytoplasmic clock" or "master oscillator"), but appear to be more likely related to some events of mitosis.

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