Fura-2 was used to measure the amount of Ca released from the intracellular Ca store of a saponin-skinned smooth muscle fiber bundle of the guinea pig taenia caeci (width, 150-250 microns) placed in a capillary cuvette at 20-22 degrees C. The amount of Ca actively loaded into the store was assayed when released by the application of 50 mM caffeine and/or 10 microM inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3) in the absence of ATP, and was found to have a biphasic dependence on the loading [Ca2+] with a peak near pCa 6. After Ca loading at pCa 6, IP3 released almost all the releasable Ca, whereas caffeine discharged Ca from only approximately 40% of the store. The maximum amount of Ca in the store was some 220 mumol/liter cell water. Ca in the caffeine-releasable store was released approximately exponentially to zero with time when Ca2+ was applied in the absence of ATP, and the rate constant of the Ca-induced Ca release (CICR) increased steeply with the concentration of Ca2+ applied. Increase in [Mg2+] (0.5-5.0 mM) or decrease in pH (7.3-6.7) shifted the relation between pCa and the rate of CICR roughly in parallel toward the lower pCa. An adenine nucleotide increased the rate of the CICR, but it did not change the range of effective [Ca2+]. 5 mM caffeine greatly enhanced the CICR mechanism, making it approximately 30 times more sensitive to [Ca2+]. However the drug had no Ca-releasing action in the absence of Ca2+. Procaine in millimolar concentrations inhibited the rate of the CICR. These properties are similar to those of the skeletal muscle CICR and ryanodine receptor channels. Rates of the CICR under a physiological ionic milieu were estimated from the results, and a [Ca2+] greater than 1 microM was expected to be necessary for the activation of the Ca release. This Ca sensitivity seems too low for the CICR mechanism to play a primary physiological role in Ca mobilization, unless assisted by other mechanisms.

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