Spatial and temporal aspects of Ca2+ signaling were investigated in PC12 cells differentiated with nerve growth factor, the well known nerve cell model. Activation of receptors coupled to polyphosphoinositide hydrolysis gave rise in a high proportion of the cells to Ca2+ waves propagating non decrementally and at constant speed (2-4 microns/s at 18 degrees C and approximately 10-fold faster at 37 degrees C) along the neurites. These waves relied entirely on the release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores since they could be generated even when the cells were incubated in Ca(2+)-free medium. In contrast, when the cells were depolarized with high K+ in Ca(2+)-containing medium, increases of cytosolic Ca2+ occurred in the neurites but failed to evolve into waves. Depending on the receptor agonist employed (bradykinin and carbachol versus ATP) the orientation of the waves could be opposite, from the neurite tip to the cell body or vice versa, suggesting different and specific distribution of the responsible surface receptors. Cytosolic Ca2+ imaging results, together with studies of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate generation in intact cells and inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate-induced Ca2+ release from microsomes, revealed the sustaining process of the waves to be discharge of Ca2+ from the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate- (and not the ryanodine-) sensitive stores distributed along the neurites. The activation of the cognate receptor appears to result from the coordinate action of the second messenger and Ca2+. Because of their properties and orientation, the waves could participate in the control of not only conventional cell activities, but also excitability and differential processing of inputs, and thus of electrochemical computation in nerve cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.