In cardiac myocytes, local sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) Ca depletion during Ca sparks is believed to play an important role in the termination of SR Ca release. We tested whether decreasing the rate of SR Ca depletion by partially inhibiting SR Ca release channels (ryanodine receptors) delays Ca spark termination. In permeabilized cat ventricular myocytes, 0.7 mM tetracaine caused almost complete Ca spark inhibition followed by a recovery significantly below control level. The recovery was associated with increased SR Ca load and increased Ca spark duration. Additionally, SR Ca release events lasting several hundred milliseconds occurred consistently. These events had a significantly lower initial Ca release flux followed by a stable plateau, indicating delayed release termination and maintained SR Ca load. Increasing SR Ca load (without inhibiting SR Ca release rate) or decreasing SR Ca release rate (without increasing SR Ca load) both induced only a small increase in spark duration. These results show that the combination of decreased release flux and increased SR Ca load has synergistic effects and exerts major changes on the termination of Ca release events. Long-lasting Ca release events may originate from highly interconnected release junctions where Ca diffusion from neighboring sites partially compensates Ca depletion, thereby delaying SR Ca-dependent termination. Eventually, these events terminate by luminal Ca-independent mechanisms, such as inactivation, adaptation, or stochastic attrition.
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