Cytosolic free calcium concentrations ([Ca2+]i) and amylase secretion were measured in isolated rat pancreatic acini loaded with the intracellularly trapped fluorescent indicator quin2. Both caerulein and carbamoylcholine caused a rapid increase in [Ca2+]i, with a maximal 3-fold increase at 10(-9) M-caerulein and 10(-4) M-carbamoylcholine. However, caerulein (10(-12) M and 10(-11) M) as well as carbamoylcholine (10(-7) M) caused a significant stimulation of amylase release, while not inducing any detectable rise in [Ca2+]i. Changes in [Ca2+]i after addition of either secretagogue were transient and did not last more than 2-3 min. By contrast, when amylase secretion was monitored as a function of time, two distinct secretory phases could be observed upon addition of either carbamoylcholine (10(-5) M) or caerulein (10(-10) M). An initial, rapid phase (0-5 min) which caused a 6-7-fold increase above basal, followed by a sustained (5-30 min), but less marked, secretory rate (2-3-fold above basal). Addition of atropine (10(-4) M) 5 min after carbamoylcholine (10(-5) M) (i.e. after termination of the rise in [Ca2+]i and of the first secretory phase) did not cause any significant change in [Ca2+]i, while significantly inhibiting amylase secretion from 5 to 30 min to the same rate observed in the absence of the secretagogue. These results show that caerulein and carbamoylcholine, two agents thought to activate secretion mainly through mobilization of Ca2+ from intracellular stores, are capable of eliciting amylase secretion independently of a concomitant rise in [Ca2+]i. Furthermore, with both secretagogues the rise in [Ca2+]i, when observed, was only transient, while the stimulation of amylase release was sustained.

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