We have investigated effects of neuronal differentiation on hormone-induced Ca2+ entry. Fura-2 fluorescence measurements of undifferentiated SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells, stimulated with methacholine, revealed the presence of voltage-operated Ca2+-permeable, Mn2+-impermeable entry pathways, and at least two voltage-independent Ca2+- and Mn2+-permeable entry pathways, all of which apparently contribute to both peak and plateau phases of the Ca2+ signal. Similar experiments using 9-cis retinoic acid-differentiated cells, however, revealed voltage-operated Ca2+-permeable, Mn2+-impermeable channels, and, more significantly, the absence or down-regulation of the most predominant of the voltage-independent entry pathways. This down-regulated pathway is probably due to CCE (capacitative Ca2+ entry), since thapsigargin also stimulated Ca2+ and Mn2+ entry in undifferentiated but not differentiated cells. The Ca2+ entry components remaining in methacholine-stimulated differentiated cells contributed to only the plateau phase of the Ca2+ signal. We conclude that differentiation of SH-SY5Y cells results in a mechanistic and functional change in hormone-stimulated Ca2+ entry. In undifferentiated cells, voltage-operated Ca2+ channels, CCE and NCCE (non-CCE) pathways are present. Of the voltage-independent pathways, the predominant one appears to be CCE. These pathways contribute to both peak and plateau phases of the Ca2+ signal. In differentiated cells, CCE is either absent or down-regulated, whereas voltage-operated entry and NCCE remain active and contribute to only the plateau phase of the Ca2+ signal.

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