Light stimulation of invertebrate microvillar photoreceptors causes a large rapid elevation in Cai, shown previously to modulate the adaptational state of the cells. Cai rises, at least in part, as a result of Ins(1,4,5)P3-induced Ca2+ release from the submicrovillar endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Here, we provide evidence for Ca(2+)-induced Ca2+ release (CICR) in an insect photoreceptor. In situ microphotometric measurements of Ca2+ fluxes across the ER membrane in permeabilized slices of drone bee retina show that (a) caffeine induces Ca2+ release from the ER; (b) caffeine and Ins(1,4,5)P3 open distinct Ca2+ release pathways because only caffeine-induced Ca2+ release is ryanodine sensitive and heparin insensitive, and because caffeine and Ins(1,4,5)P3 have additive effects on the rate of Ca2+ release; (c) Ca2+ itself stimulates release of Ca2+ via a ryanodine-sensitive pathway; and (d) cADPR is ineffective in releasing Ca2+. Microfluorometric intracellular Ca2+ measurements with fluo-3 indicate that caffeine induces a persistent elevation in Cai. Electrophysiological recordings demonstrate that caffeine mimics all aspects of Ca(2+)-mediated facilitation and adaptation in drone photoreceptors. We conclude that the ER in drone photoreceptors contains, in addition to the Ins(1,4,5)P3-sensitive release pathway, a CICR pathway that meets key pharmacological criteria for a ryanodine receptor. Coexpression of both release mechanisms could be required for the production of rapid light-induced Ca2+ elevations, because Ca2+ amplifies its own release through both pathways by a positive feedback. CICR may also mediate the spatial spread of Ca2+ release from the submicrovillar ER toward more remote ER subregions, thereby activating Ca(2+)-sensitive cell processes that are not directly involved in phototransduction.

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