Estimates of cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) were made essentially simultaneously in the same intact frog skeletal muscle fibers with aequorin and with Ca-selective microelectrodes. In healthy fibers under truly resting conditions [Ca2+]i was too low to be measured reliably with either technique. The calibration curves for both indicators were essentially flat in this range of [Ca2+], and the aequorin light signal was uniformly below the level to be expected in the total absence of Ca2+. When [Ca2+]i had been raised to a stable level below the threshold for contracture by increasing [K+]o to 12.5 mM, [Ca2+]i was 38 nM according to aequorin and 59 nM according to the Ca-selective microelectrodes. These values are not significantly different. Our estimates of [Ca2+]i are lower than most others obtained with microelectrodes, probably because the presence of aequorin in the cells allowed us to detect damaging microelectrode impalements that otherwise we would have had no reason to reject. The observation that the light emission from aequorin-injected fibers in normal Ringer solution was below the level expected from the Ca(2+)-independent luminescence of aequorin in vitro was investigated further, with the conclusion that the myoplasm contains a diffusible macromolecule (between 10 and 30 kD) that interacts with aequorin to reduce light emission in the absence of Ca2+.

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