The interaction between caffeine and calcium on the rate of desensitization of muscle postjunctional membrane (PJM) receptors during the sustained application of 0.27 mM carbamylcholine (CARB) has been studied in vitro on the sartorius muscle of the frog. The rate of PJM repolarization with CARB added to the solution bathing the muscle or the recovery of the effective transmembrane resistance (EMR) during the microperfusion of CARB directly onto the end-plate region of individual fibers was used as an index of the rate of desensitization. Caffeine (1.5 mM) increased the rate of PJM repolarization with bulk application of CARB in a 1.8 or 10 mM calcium Ringer solution but had no effect on PJM repolarization in a calcium-deficient, 4 mM magnesium Ringer solution. For EMR measurements the preparation was rendered mechanically quiescent by repeated challenges with isotonic KCl during an exposure of several hours to a calcium-free, 4 mM magnesium-1 mM EGTA Ringer solution. In these fibers, the microperfusion of 0.27 mM CARB together with 1.8 mM calcium plus 1.5 mM caffeine significantly increased the rate of EMR recovery above that observed in the absence of caffeine. Raising the calcium concentration to 10 mM had a similar effect; however, no additional increase was noted by the inclusion of 1.5 mM caffeine. It is suggested that the major role of caffeine in PJM desensitization is to increase the calcium permeability of the surface membrane. The transmembrane movement of calcium and the consequent intracellular accumulation of calcium is seen as a critical factor in controlling the rate of PJM desensitization.

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