Using calcium-sensitive dyes together with their dextran conjugates and confocal microscopy, we have looked for evidence of localized calcium signaling in the region of the nucleus before entry into mitosis, using the sea urchin egg first mitotic cell cycle as a model. Global calcium transients that appear to originate from the nuclear area are often observed just before nuclear envelope breakdown (NEB). In the absence of global increases in calcium, confocal microscopy using Calcium Green-1 dextran indicator dye revealed localized calcium transients in the perinuclear region. We have also used a photoinactivatable calcium chelator, nitrophenyl EGTA (NP-EGTA), to test whether the chelator-induced block of mitosis entry can be reversed after inactivation of the chelator. Cells arrested before NEB by injection of NP-EGTA resume the cell cycle after flash photolysis of the chelator. Photolysis of chelator triggers calcium release. TreatmenT with caFfeine to enhance calcium-induced calcium release increases the amplitude of NEB-associated calcium transients. These results indicate that calcium increases local to the nucleus are required to trigger entry into mitosis. Local calcium transients arise in the perinuclear region and can spread from this region into the cytoplasm. Thus, cell cycle calcium signals are generated by the perinuclear mitotic machinery in early sea urchin embryos.

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