Digital imaging and the patch clamp technique were used to investigate the intracellular calcium concentration in olfactory receptor neurons using the Ca2+ indicator dyes fura-2 and fura-2/AM. The spatial distribution of Cai2+ as well as its modification by the drugs Amiloride and Ruthenium Red were studied. Resting calcium concentrations in cells loaded with fura-2/AM were between 10 and 200 nM. In cells that were loaded with the pentapotassium salt of fura-2 through the patch pipette, calcium concentrations were in the same range if ATP was added to the pipette solution. Otherwise, Ca2+ reached concentrations of approximately 500 nM. Most of the observed cells showed a standing gradient of calcium, the calcium concentrations in the distal dendritic end of the cell being higher than in the soma. In some cells, the gradient was markedly reduced or abolished by adding either Amiloride or Ruthenium Red to the bath solution. In a few cells, neither drug had any effect upon the gradient. It is suggested that the inhomogenous spatial distribution of intracellular calcium in olfactory cells of Xenopus laevis is brought about by an influx of calcium ions through two different calcium permeable conductances in the peripheral compartments of the cells. The fact that only either Ruthenium Red or Amiloride abolished the standing calcium gradient further suggested that the two conductances blocked were presumably not coexpressed in the same cells.

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