To test whether ryanodine blocks the release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum in cardiac muscle, we examined its effects on the aftercontractions and transient depolarizations or transient inward currents developed by guinea pig papillary muscles and voltage-clamped calf cardiac Purkinje fibers in potassium-free solutions. Ryanodine (0.1-1.0 microM) abolished or prevented aftercontractions and transient depolarizations by the papillary muscles without affecting any of the other sequelae of potassium removal. In the presence of 4.7 mM potassium and at a stimulation rate of 1 Hz, ryanodine had only a small variable effect on papillary muscle force development and action potential characteristics. In calf Purkinje fibers, ryanodine (1 nM-1 microM) completely blocked the aftercontractions and transient inward currents without altering the steady state current-voltage relationship. Ryanodine also abolished the twitch in potassium-free solutions, but it enhanced the tonic force during depolarizing voltage-clamp steps. This latter effect was dependent on the combination of ryanodine and potassium-free solutions. The slow inward current was not blocked by 1 microM ryanodine, but ryanodine did appear to abolish an outward current that remained in the presence of 0.5 mM 4-aminopyridine. Our observations are consistent with the hypothesis that ryanodine, by inhibiting the release of calcium from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, prevents the oscillations in intracellular calcium that activate the transient inward currents and aftercontractions associated with calcium overload states.

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