Calcium signaling is known to be associated with cytokinesis; however, the detailed spatio-temporal pattern of calcium dynamics has remained unclear. We have studied changes of intracellular free calcium in cleavage-stage Xenopus embryos using fluorescent calcium indicator dyes, mainly Calcium Green-1. Cleavage formation was followed by calcium transients that localized to cleavage furrows and propagated along the furrows as calcium waves. The calcium transients at the cleavage furrows were observed at each cleavage furrow at least until blastula stage. The velocity of the calcium waves at the first cleavage furrow was approximately 3 microns/s, which was much slower than that associated with fertilization/egg activation. These calcium waves traveled only along the cleavage furrows and not in the direction orthogonal to the furrows. These observations imply that there exists an intracellular calcium-releasing activity specifically associated with cleavage furrows. The calcium waves occurred in the absence of extracellular calcium and were inhibited in embryos injected with heparin an inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (InsP3) receptor antagonist. These results suggest that InsP3 receptor-mediated calcium mobilization plays an essential role in calcium wave formation at the cleavage furrows.

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