Pacemaking through Ca2+ stores interacting as coupled oscillators via membrane depolarization

Biophys J. 2007 Jun 1;92(11):3843-61. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.106.095687. Epub 2007 Mar 9.


This study presents an investigation of pacemaker mechanisms underlying lymphatic vasomotion. We tested the hypothesis that active inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP(3)R)-operated Ca(2+) stores interact as coupled oscillators to produce near-synchronous Ca(2+) release events and associated pacemaker potentials, this driving action potentials and constrictions of lymphatic smooth muscle. Application of endothelin 1 (ET-1), an agonist known to enhance synthesis of IP(3), to quiescent lymphatic smooth muscle syncytia first enhanced spontaneous Ca(2+) transients and/or intracellular Ca(2+) waves. Larger near-synchronous Ca(2+) transients then occurred leading to global synchronous Ca(2+) transients associated with action potentials and resultant vasomotion. In contrast, blockade of L-type Ca(2+) channels with nifedipine prevented ET-1 from inducing near-synchronous Ca(2+) transients and resultant action potentials, leaving only asynchronous Ca(2+) transients and local Ca(2+) waves. These data were well simulated by a model of lymphatic smooth muscle with: 1), oscillatory Ca(2+) release from IP(3)R-operated Ca(2+) stores, which causes depolarization; 2), L-type Ca(2+) channels; and 3), gap junctions between cells. Stimulation of the stores caused global pacemaker activity through coupled oscillator-based entrainment of the stores. Membrane potential changes and positive feedback by L-type Ca(2+) channels to produce more store activity were fundamental to this process providing long-range electrochemical coupling between the Ca(2+) store oscillators. We conclude that lymphatic pacemaking is mediated by coupled oscillator-based interactions between active Ca(2+) stores. These are weakly coupled by inter- and intracellular diffusion of store activators and strongly coupled by membrane potential. Ca(2+) store-based pacemaking is predicted for cellular systems where: 1), oscillatory Ca(2+) release induces depolarization; 2), membrane depolarization provides positive feedback to induce further store Ca(2+) release; and 3), cells are interconnected. These conditions are met in a surprisingly large number of cellular systems including gastrointestinal, lymphatic, urethral, and vascular tissues, and in heart pacemaker cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Lymphatic Vessels / cytology
  • Lymphatic Vessels / metabolism
  • Models, Biological*
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / metabolism


  • Calcium