Cytosolic Ca2+ (Cai 2+) regulates secretion of bicarbonate and other ions in the cholangiocyte. In other cell types, this second messenger acts through Ca2+ waves, Ca2+ oscillations, and other subcellular Ca2+ signaling patterns, but little is known about the subcellular organization of Ca2+ signaling in cholangiocytes. Therefore, we examined Ca2+ signaling and the subcellular distribution of Ca2+ release channels in cholangiocytes and in a model cholangiocyte cell line. The expression and subcellular distribution of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (InsP3) receptor (InsP3R) isoforms and the ryanodine receptor (RyR) were determined in cholangiocytes from normal rat liver and in the normal rat cholangiocyte (NRC) polarized bile duct cell line. Subcellular Ca2+ signaling in cholangiocytes was examined by confocal microscopy. All 3 InsP3R isoforms were expressed in cholangiocytes, whereas RyR was not expressed. The type III InsP3R was the most heavily expressed isoform at the protein level and was concentrated apically, whereas the type I and type II isoforms were expressed more uniformly. The type III InsP3R was expressed even more heavily in NRC cells but was concentrated apically in these cells as well. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which increases Ca2+ via InsP3 in cholangiocytes, induced Ca2+ oscillations in both cholangiocytes and NRC cells. Acetylcholine (ACh) induced apical-to-basal Ca2+ waves. In conclusion, Ca2+ signaling in cholangiocytes occurs as polarized Ca2+ waves that begin in the region of the type III InSP3R. Differential subcellular localization of InsP3R isoforms may be an important molecular mechanism for the formation of Ca2+ waves and oscillations in cholangiocytes. Because Cai 2+ is in part responsible for regulating ductular secretion, these findings also may have implications for the molecular basis of cholestatic disorders.
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