Barium ions enter chromaffin cells via voltage-dependent calcium channels and induce secretion by a mechanism independent of calcium

E. Heldman, M. Levine, L. Raveh, H. B. Pollard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Barium ions enter chromaffin cells via voltage-sensitive calcium channels, although the intracellular site of barium action is distinct from that of calcium. The entry of barium primarily through voltage-sensitive channels was indicated by experiments showing inhibition of 133Ba2+ uptake by blockers of voltage-dependent calcium channels. In addition, 133Ba2+ uptake was stimulated by 50 mM KCl but not by nicotine. Furthermore, 133Ba2+ uptake was inhibited by hyperosmolarity, which specifically blocks the voltage-sensitive calcium channel but not the receptor-associated calcium channel. These conclusions from studies on barium uptake were also borne out by experiments measuring catecholamine secretion. Thus, blockers of voltage-dependent calcium channels which inhibited barium uptake also inhibited barium-induced catecholamine secretion. In other experiments, simultaneous stimulation with nicotine and barium in the presence of calcium evoked coincident and additive catecholamine secretion. By contrast, when 50 mM KCl was sbustituted for nicotine in the same experimental design, barium ions inhibited potassium-induced catecholamine secretion at low calcium concentrations. Only at high calcium concentrations were barium-induced and potassium-induced secretion additive. These data also indicate that barium and calcium compete at the voltage-sensitive pathway. Furhermore, these additivity data suggest that once inside the cell, barium and calcium have two distinct mechanisms of action. As predicted by this hypothesis, in digitonin-permeabilized chromaffin cells either calcium or barium stimulated catecholamine release, and in the presence of both cations catecholamine secretion was equivalent to the sum of secretion with either cation alone. Additional support of this concept comes from experiments showing that while calcium-mediated catecholamine secretion is sensitive to trifluoperazine and imipramine, barium-mediated secretion is not. Taken together, all these data indicate that there are two distinct intracellular sites of action for barium and calcium. In contrast to catecholamine secretion, non-exocytotic ascorbic acid secretion was induced by nicotine and potassium in the presence of calcium, but not by barium alone. These data provide additional evidence that barium acts by a different mechanism than calcium, in still another secretory system in chromaffin cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7914-7920
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number14
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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