Animal cells are cleaved by the formation and contraction of an extremely thin actomyosin band. In most cases this contractile band seems to form synchronously around the whole equator of the cleaving cell; however in giant cells it first forms near the mitotic apparatus and then slowly grows outwards over the cell. We studied the relationship of calcium to such contractile band growth using aequorin injected medaka fish eggs: we see two successive waves of faint luminescence moving along each of the first three cleavage furrows at approximately 0.5 micron/s. The first, narrower waves accompany furrow extension, while the second, broader ones, accompany the subsequent apposition or slow zipping together of the separating cells. If the first waves travel within the assembling contractile band, they would indicate local increases of free calcium to concentrations of about five to eight micromolar. This is the first report to visualize high free calcium within cleavage furrows. Moreover, this is also the first report to visualize slow (0.3-1.0 micron/s) as opposed to fast (10-100 microns/s) calcium waves. We suggest that these first waves are needed for furrow growth; that in part they further furrow growth by speeding actomyosin filament shortening, while such shortening in turn acts to mechanically release calcium and thus propagates these waves as well as furrow growth. We also suggest that the second waves act to induce the exocytosis which provides new furrow membrane.

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