We investigated the cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i) of leech Retzius neurons in situ while varying the extracellular and intracellular pH as well as the extracellular ionic strength. Changing these parameters had no significant effect on [Ca2+]i when the membrane potential of the cells was close to its resting value. However, when the cells were depolarized by raising the extracellular K+ concentration or by applying the glutamatergic agonist kainate, extracellular pH and ionic strength markedly affected [Ca2+]i, whereas intracellular pH changes appeared to have virtually no effect. An extracellular acidification decreased [Ca2+]i, while alkalinization or reduction of the ionic strength increased it. Correspondingly, [Ca2+]i also increased when the kainate-induced extracellular acidification was reduced by raising the pH-buffering capacity. At low extracellular pH, the membrane potential to which the cells must be depolarized to evoke a detectable [Ca2+]i increase was shifted to more positive values, and it moved to more negative values at high pH. We conclude that in leech Retzius neurons extracellular pH, but not intracellular pH, affects [Ca2+]i by modulating Ca2+ influx through voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels. The results suggest that this modulation is mediated primarily by shifts in the surface potential at the extracellular side of the plasma membrane.
The Journal of Membrane Biology – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 1, 2001
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