To investigate the mechanisms regulating intracellular Na+ and Ca2+ concentrations ([Na+]i and [Ca2+]i, respectively), we monitored both ion concentrations simultaneously using fluorescent probes, Na(+)-binding benzofuran isophthalate (SBFI) and fluo 3, in unstimulated guinea pig ventricular myocytes. After the addition of 500 microM strophanthidin, [Na+]i increased gradually from 6.6 +/- 0.6 to 20.1 +/- 1.6 mM (mean +/- SE) at 50 min. [Ca2+]i, expressed as the percentage change of corrected fluo 3 fluorescence, was kept at the low level during the first 20 min and then began to increase to 447 +/- 81% of the control at 50 min. The addition of 1 microM hexamethylene amiloride prevented the increases in both [Na+]i and [Ca2+]i. The perfusion of Ca(2+)-free solution or 5 mM Ni(2+)-containing solution suppressed the increase in [Ca2+]i. In cells that exhibited spontaneous contractile activities, [Ca2+]i increased further than that in quiescent cells, whereas [Na+]i levels were similar. In the presence of 1 microM ryanodine, both the spontaneous contractile activities and the further increase in [Ca2+]i were eliminated. These findings indicated that 1) the pathway of Na+ entry was mainly through Na(+)-H+ exchange and that the elevated [Na+]i induced Ca2+ entry mediated by the reverse mode of Na(+)-Ca2+ exchange, and 2) the entered Ca2+ triggered the ryanodine-sensitive Ca2+ release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum, causing the dissociation in the relationship between [Na+]i and [Ca2+]i.
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