Previous studies have shown that acidosis increases myoplasmic [Ca2+] (Cai). We have investigated whether this facilitates spontaneous sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca2+ release and its functional sequelae. In unstimulated rat papillary muscles, exposure to an acid solution (produced by increasing the [CO2] of the perfusate from 5 to 20%) caused a rapid increase in the mean tissue Caj, as measured by the photoprotein aequorin. This was paralleled by an increase in spontaneous microscopic tissue motion caused by localized Ca2+ myofilament interactions, as monitored in fluctuations in the intensity of laser light scattered by the muscle. In regularly stimulated muscles, acidosis increased the size of the Ca2+ transient associated with each contraction and caused the appearance of Caj oscillations in the diastolic period. In unstimulated single myocytes, acidosis depolarized the resting membrane potential by ~5 mV and enhanced the frequency of spontaneous contractile waves. The small sarcolemmal depolarization associated with each contractile wave increased and occasionally initiated spontaneous action potentials. In regularly stimulated myocytes, acidosis caused de novo spontaneous contractile waves between twitches; these waves were associated with a decrease in the amplitude of the subsequent stimulated twitch. Ryanodine (2 µM) abolished all evidence of spontaneous Ca2+ release during acidosis, markedly reduced the acidosis-induced increase in aequorin light, and reduced resting tension. We conclude that acidosis increases the likelihood for the occurrence of spontaneous SR Ca2+ release, which can (a) cause spontaneous action potentials, (b) increase resting tension, and (c) negatively affect twitch tension.
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