Calcium (Ca2+) entry units (CEUs) are junctions within the I band of the sarcomere between stacks of sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) cisternae and extensions of the transverse (T)-tubule. CEUs contain STIM1 and Orai1 proteins, the molecular machinery of store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE). In extensor digitorum longus (EDL) fibers of wild-type (WT) mice, CEUs transiently assemble during acute exercise and disassemble several hours thereafter. By contrast, calsequestrin-1 (CASQ1) ablation induces a compensatory constitutive assembly of CEUs in EDL fibers, resulting in enhanced constitutive and maximum SOCE that counteracts SR Ca2+ depletion during repetitive activity. However, whether CEUs form in slow-twitch fibers, which express both the skeletal CASQ1 and the cardiac CASQ2 isoforms, is unknown. Herein, we compared the structure and function of soleus muscles from WT and knockout mice that lack either CASQ1 (CASQ1-null) or both CASQs (dCASQ-null). Ultrastructural analyses showed that SR/T-tubule junctions at the I band, virtually identical to CEUs in EDL muscle, were present and more frequent in CASQ1-null than WT mice, with dCASQ-null exhibiting the highest incidence. The greater incidence of CEUs in soleus from dCASQ-null mice correlated with increased specific force production during repetitive, high-frequency stimulation, which depended on Ca2+ entry. Consistent with this, Orai1 expression was significantly increased in soleus of CASQ1-null mice, but even more in dCASQ-null mice, compared with WT. Together, these results strengthen the concept that CEU assembly strongly depends on CASQ expression and provides an alternative source of Ca2+ needed to refill SR Ca2+ stores to maintain specific force production during sustained muscle activity.

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