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Ca(2+) signaling regulates cell function. This is subject to modulation by H(+) ions that are universal end-products of metabolism. Due to slow diffusion and common buffers, changes in cytoplasmic [Ca(2+)] ([Ca(2+)]i) or [H(+)] ([H(+)]i) can become compartmentalized, leading potentially to complex spatial Ca(2+)/H(+) coupling. This was studied by fluorescence imaging of cardiac myocytes. An increase in [H(+)]i, produced by superfusion of acetate (salt of membrane-permeant weak acid), evoked a [Ca(2+)]i rise, independent of sarcolemmal Ca(2+) influx or release from mitochondria, sarcoplasmic reticulum, or acidic stores. Photolytic H(+) uncaging from 2-nitrobenzaldehyde also raised [Ca(2+)]i, and the yield was reduced following inhibition of glycolysis or mitochondrial respiration. H(+) uncaging into buffer mixtures in vitro demonstrated that Ca(2+) unloading from proteins, histidyl dipeptides (HDPs; e.g., carnosine), and ATP can underlie the H(+)-evoked [Ca(2+)]i rise. Raising [H(+)]i tonically at one end of a myocyte evoked a local [Ca(2+)]i rise in the acidic microdomain, which did not dissipate. The result is consistent with uphill Ca(2+) transport into the acidic zone via Ca(2+)/H(+) exchange on diffusible HDPs and ATP molecules, energized by the [H(+)]i gradient. Ca(2+) recruitment to a localized acid microdomain was greatly reduced during intracellular Mg(2+) overload or by ATP depletion, maneuvers that reduce the Ca(2+)-carrying capacity of HDPs. Cytoplasmic HDPs and ATP underlie spatial Ca(2+)/H(+) coupling in the cardiac myocyte by providing ion exchange and transport on common buffer sites. Given the abundance of cellular HDPs and ATP, spatial Ca(2+)/H(+) coupling is likely to be of general importance in cell signaling.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





E2064 - E2073


calcium, dual microperfusion, heart, mobile buffer, pH, Adenosine Triphosphate, Animals, Calcium Signaling, Cytoplasm, Dipeptides, Fluorometry, Histidine, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Myocytes, Cardiac, Protons, Rats