Various experimental strategies were employed in an effort to explain the previously reported [Horstman, Takemura & Putney (1988) J. Biol. Chem. 263, 15297-15303] paradoxically high levels of inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate [(1,4,5)IP3] in resting and substance-P-stimulated AR4-2J cells. The concentration-effect curves for substance-P-induced [3H](1,4,5)IP3 formation in [3H]inositol-labelled cells and substance-P-induced increase in intracellular [Ca2+] were essentially superimposable, suggesting that formation of (1,4,5)IP3 is limiting for cellular Ca2+ mobilization. In electrically permeabilized AR4-2J cells, (1,4,5)IP3 and other inositol polyphosphates stimulated Ca2+ release with potencies similar to those reported for other cell types, including the parent pancreatic acinar cell. Compartmentalization of basal (1,4,5)IP3 was suggested by the fact that this material was stable in the presence of antimycin A, although this toxin completely blocked agonist stimulation of phospholipase C. However, subcellular fractionation as well as permeabilization of the cells with Staphylococcus aureus alpha-toxin failed to provide evidence for binding or sequestration of [3H](1,4,5)IP3 in AR4-2J cells. The density of (1,4,5)IP3 receptors in AR4-2J cells was not sufficiently large to impose non-linearity in the relationship between (1,4,5)IP3 concentration and (1,4,5)IP3-induced Ca2+ release. Thus the apparent high concentrations of (1,4,5)IP3 in resting and stimulated AR4-2J cells are not indicative of atypically low sensitivity or high concentration of (1,4,5)IP3 receptors, nor is there evidence for compartmentalization of (1,4,5)IP3 outside of the cytoplasm in these cells. It is possible that soluble factors in the cytoplasm of AR4-2J cells regulate the free concentration of (1,4,5)IP3 or the sensitivity of receptors to (1,4,5)IP3.

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