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Recent studies have highlighted the role of the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) in controlling excitability, Ca2+ signalling and contractility in smooth muscle. Caffeine, an agonist of ryanodine receptors (RyRs) on the SR has been previously shown to effect Ca2+ signalling but its effects on excitability and contractility are not so clear. We have studied the effects of low concentration of caffeine (1 mM) on Ca2+ signalling, action potential and contractility of guinea pig ureteric smooth muscle. Caffeine produced reversible inhibition of the action potentials, Ca2+ transients and phasic contractions evoked by electrical stimulation. It had no effect on the inward Ca2+ current or Ca2+ transient but increased the amplitude and the frequency of spontaneous transient outward currents (STOCs) in voltage clamped ureteric myocytes, suggesting Ca2+-activated K+ channels (BK) are affected by it. In isolated cells and cells in situ caffeine produced an increase in the frequency and the amplitude of Ca2+ sparks as well the number of spark discharging sites per cell. Inhibition of Ca2+ sparks by ryanodine (50 microM) or SR Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA) cyclopiazonic acid (CPA, 20 microM) or BKCa channels by iberiotoxin (200 nM) or TEA (1 mM), fully reversed the inhibitory effect of caffeine on Ca2+ transients and force evoked by electrical field stimulation (EFS). These data suggest that the inhibitory effect of caffeine on the action potential, Ca2+ transients and force in ureteric smooth muscle is caused by activation of Ca2+ sparks/STOCs coupling mechanism.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Calcium

Publication Date





303 - 311


Action Potentials, Animals, Caffeine, Calcium Channels, L-Type, Calcium Signaling, Female, Guinea Pigs, Indoles, Muscle Contraction, Muscle, Smooth, Patch-Clamp Techniques, Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors, Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated, Ryanodine, Sarcoplasmic Reticulum, Ureter