Pacemaking in interstitial cells of Cajal depends upon calcium handling by endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria

S. M. Ward, T. Ördög, S. D. Koh, S. Abu Baker, J. Y. Jun, G. Amberg, K. Monaghan, K. M. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

251 Scopus citations


1. Pacemaker cells, known as interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC), generate electrical rhythmicity in the gastrointestinal tract. Pacemaker currents in ICC result from the activation of a voltage-independent, non-selective cation conductance, but the timing mechanism responsible for periodic activation of the pacemaker current is unknown. 2. Previous studies suggest that pacemaking in ICC is dependent upon metabolic activity and Ca2+ release from intracellular stores. We tested the hypothesis that mitochondrial Ca2+ handling may underlie the dependence of gastrointestinal pacemaking on oxidative metabolism. 3. Pacemaker currents occurred spontaneously in cultured ICC and were associated with mitochondrial Ca2+ transients. 4. Inhibition of the electrochemical gradient across the inner mitochondrial membrane blocked Ca2+ uptake and pacemaker currents in cultured ICC and blocked slow wave activity in intact gastrointestinal muscles from mouse, dog and guinea-pig. 5. Pacemaker currents and rhythmic mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake in ICC were also blocked by inhibitors of IP3-dependent release of Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum and by inhibitors of endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ reuptake. 6. Our data suggest that integrated Ca2+ handling by endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria is a prerequisite of electrical pacemaking in the gastrointestinal tract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-361
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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