A contraction of the rabbit ear artery can be induced by depolarizing the cells with a K-rich solution if Ca is present. 10(-9)-10(-6) M noradrenaline and 10(-8)-10(-7) M histamine cause a contraction of this tissue without modifying the membrane potential. If the histamine concentration exceeds 10(-7) M some depolarization of the membrane also occurs. Both noradrenaline and histamine also induce a contraction in Ca-free medium, even if La is present. None of these stimuli produces action potentials or fluctuations of the membrane potential. Besides these tonic contractions, the ear artery can also produce phasic contractions when 10 mM TEA is added to the medium. Such contractions are caused by the appearance of action potentials which are Ca dependent and which are similar to those appearing in visceral smooth muscle. A study of 45Ca fluxes has revealed that K depolarization and noradrenaline cause only a small increase in 45Ca uptake by the cells, while noradrenaline also releases cellular Ca, even in Ca-free medium. A comparison of tension development and 45Ca release induced by noradrenaline in Ca-free medium suggests that Ca extrusion could be very efficient in the rabbit ear artery and that it could play a direct role in its relaxation.

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