Airway epithelial cells in culture respond to extracellular adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) by increasing their intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i). The effective concentration of ATP that elicited a Ca2+ response equal to 50% of the maximal response (EC50) was 0.5 microM. Release of ATP from a pipette to form a local gradient of ATP increased [Ca2+]i of individual cells in a sequential manner. Cells closest to the pipette showed an immediate increase in [Ca2+]i while more distal cells displayed a delayed increase in [Ca2+]i. This response to the local release of ATP appeared as a wave of increasing [Ca2+]i that spread to several cells and, in this respect, was similar to the intercellularly communicated Ca2+ waves initiated by mechanical stimulation in airway epithelial cells (Sanderson et al., Cell Regul. 1, 585–596, 1990). In the presence of a unidirectional fluid flow, the Ca2+ response to a local release of ATP was biased such that virtually all the cells responding with an increase in [Ca2+]i were downstream of the release site. By contrast, an identical fluid flow did not bias the radial propagation of intercellular Ca2+ waves induced by mechanical stimulation. Suramin, a P2-purinergic receptor antagonist, did attenuate the Ca2+ response induced by ATP but did not block the propagation of mechanically induced Ca2+ waves. Cells from young cultures (3-5 days) or those at the leading edge of an outgrowth elevated their [Ca2+]i in response to ATP. However, these cells do not respond to mechanical stimulation by the propagation of a Ca2+ wave. From these results we conclude that the intercellular Ca2+ waves elicited by mechanical stimulation are not the result of ATP or another compound released from the stimulated cell, diffusing through the extracellular fluid. This conclusion is consistent with previous experimental evidence suggesting that intercellular Ca2+ signaling in epithelial cells is mediated by the movement of inositol trisphosphate through gap junctions.
- © 1993 by Company of Biologists