Physiological properties and functions of Ca2+ sparks in rat intrapulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells

Carmelle V. Remillard, Wei Min Zhang, Larissa A. Shimoda, James S.K. Sham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Ca2+ spark has been implicated as a pivotal feedback mechanism for regulating membrane potential and vasomotor tone in systemic arterial smooth muscle cells (SASMCs), but little is known about its properties in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells (PASMCs). Using confocal microscopy, we identified spontaneous Ca2+ sparks in rat intralobar PASMCs and characterized their spatiotemporal properties and physiological functions. Ca2+ sparks of PASMCs had a lower frequency and smaller amplitude than cardiac sparks. They were abolished by inhibition of ryanodine receptors but not by inhibition of inositol trisphosphate receptors and L-type Ca2+ channels. Enhanced Ca2+ influx by BAY K8644, K+, or high Ca2+ caused a significant increase in spark frequency. Functionally, enhancing Ca2+ sparks with caffeine (0.5 mM) caused membrane depolarization in PASMCs, in contrast to hyperpolarization in SASMCs. Norepinephrine and endothelin-1 both caused global elevations in cytosolic Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]), but only endothelin-1 increased spark frequency. These results suggest that Ca2+ sparks of PASMCs are similar to those of SASMCs, originate from ryanodine receptors, and are enhanced by Ca2+ influx. However, they play a different modulatory role on membrane potential and are under agonist-specific regulation independent of global [Ca2+].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L433-L444
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number2 27-2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Calcium channels
  • Endothelin-1
  • Membrane potential
  • Ryanodine receptors
  • Sarcoplasmic reticulum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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