Calcium transport mechanisms of PC12 cells

J Gen Physiol. 2008 Apr;131(4):307-23. doi: 10.1085/jgp.200709915. Epub 2008 Mar 17.


Many studies of Ca2+ signaling use PC12 cells, yet the balance of Ca2+ clearance mechanisms in these cells is unknown. We used pharmacological inhibition of Ca2+ transporters to characterize Ca2+ clearance after depolarizations in both undifferentiated and nerve growth factor-differentiated PC12 cells. Sarco-endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase (SERCA), plasma membrane Ca2+ ATPase (PMCA), and Na+/Ca2+ exchanger (NCX) account for almost all Ca2+ clearance in both cell states, with NCX and PMCA making the greatest contributions. Any contribution of mitochondrial uniporters is small. The ATP pool in differentiated cells was much more labile than that of undifferentiated cells in the presence of agents that dissipated mitochondrial proton gradients. Differentiated PC12 cells have a small component of Ca2+ clearance possessing pharmacological characteristics consistent with secretory pathway Ca2+ ATPase (SPCA), potentially residing on Golgi and/or secretory granules. Undifferentiated and differentiated cells are similar in overall Ca2+ transport and in the small transport due to SERCA, but they differ in the fraction of transport by PMCA and NCX. Transport in neurites of differentiated PC12 cells was qualitatively similar to that in the somata, except that the ER stores in neurites sometimes released Ca2+ instead of clearing it after depolarization. We formulated a mathematical model to simulate the observed Ca2+ clearance and to describe the differences between these undifferentiated and NGF-differentiated states quantitatively. The model required a value for the endogenous Ca2+ binding ratio of PC12 cell cytoplasm, which we measured to be 268 +/- 85. Our results indicate that Ca2+ transport in undifferentiated PC12 cells is quite unlike transport in adrenal chromaffin cells, for which they often are considered models. Transport in both cell states more closely resembles that of sympathetic neurons, for which differentiated PC12 cells often are considered models. Comparison with other cell types shows that different cells emphasize different Ca2+ transport mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation / pharmacology
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cytoplasm / chemistry
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Kinetics
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Nerve Growth Factor / pharmacology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • PC12 Cells / metabolism*
  • Plasma Membrane Calcium-Transporting ATPases / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum Calcium-Transporting ATPases / metabolism
  • Sodium-Calcium Exchanger / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Antigens, Differentiation
  • Sodium-Calcium Exchanger
  • Nerve Growth Factor
  • Plasma Membrane Calcium-Transporting ATPases
  • Sarcoplasmic Reticulum Calcium-Transporting ATPases
  • Calcium