Spontaneous myofilament motion that propagates within cells as a contractile wave is a manifestation of localized Ca2+ release from sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR). At 37°C, when bathing [Ca2+] (Cao) is 1.0 mM, rat myocytes exhibit contractile waves at rest and the interwave interval averages 9.1 ± 1.5 s (n = 6). We determined whether there was an interaction between this type of SR Ca2+ release and that induced by electrical stimulation to cause a twitch, and whether such an interaction had functional significance. Progressive decreases in SR Ca2+ loading effected by graded concentrations of caffeine produced proportional decreases in the mechanical amplitude of the twitch and of the spontaneous contractile wave. Regular electrical stimulation in physiologic Cao abolished the waves and, after stimulation, waves did not reappear for a period of time (delay interval). Over a range of stimulation frequencies (6-72 min-1), the delay interval ranged from 11.4 ± 3.6 to 12.4 ± 1.7 s and was usually greater than the interwave interval at rest. The delay interval for a wave to occur after a twitch was reduced in the presence of increased Cao, glycosides, or catecholamines. When the interstimulus interval exceeded the delay interval, waves could appear between twitches and had a marked effect of shortening the duration of the action potential and decreasing the amplitude of the subsequent twitch. The magnitude of this effect varied inversely with time (up to 2 s) between the onset of the spontaneous diastolic wave and the subsequent stimulated twitch. A reduction of the interstimulus interval to less than the delay interval prevented the occurrence of diastolic waves. These results demonstrate the presence of an interaction between spontaneous and action potential-mediated Ca2+ release, which can be interpreted on the basis of a common Ca2+ pool and perhaps common release mechanisms. This interaction can explain many of the known effects of electrical stimulation on phenomena that are thought to result from spontaneous Ca2+ oscillations in intact tissue.
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