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Time Course of Individual Ca2+ Sparks in Frog Skeletal Muscle Recorded at High Time Resolution

The Journal of General Physiology
The Rockefeller University Press
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  • Article


Discrete Ca2+ release events (Ca2+ “sparks”) were recorded in cut segments of single frog skeletal muscle fibers using a video-rate laser-scanning confocal microscope operating in line-scan mode (63 μs per line). Fibers loaded with the Ca2+ indicator fluo-3 were voltage clamped at a holding potential of 0 mV, briefly reprimed at −90 mV, and then strongly depolarized with a large test pulse to activate any reprimed voltage sensors. Using this high time resolution system, it was possible to record individual Ca2+ sparks at ∼30-fold higher time resolution than previously attained. The resulting new experimental data provides a means of characterizing the time course of fluorescence during the brief (a few milliseconds) rising phase of a spark, which was not possible with the previously used 1.5–2 ms per line confocal systems. Analysis of the time course of individual identified events indicates that fluorescence begins to rise rather abruptly at the start of the spark, continues to rise at a slightly decreasing rate to a relatively sharp peak, and then declines along a quasi-exponential time course. The mean rise time of 198 sparks was 4.7 ± 0.1 ms, and there was no correlation between rise time and peak amplitude. Average sparks constructed by temporally and spatially superimposing and summing groups of individual sparks having similar rise times gave a lower noise representation of the sparks, consistent with the time course of individual events. In theory, the rising phase of a spark provides a lower bound estimation of the time that Ca2+ ions are being released by the sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ channel(s) generating the spark. The observed time course of fluorescence suggests that the Ca2+ release underlying a spark could continue at a fairly constant rate throughout the rising phase of the spark, and then stop rather abruptly at the time of the peak.

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