The ability of cAMP to modulate the actions of Ca2+-mobilizing agonists was studied in single Fura-2-loaded pig articular chondrocytes in primary culture. Forskolin and 8-Br-cAMP increased both the frequency and amplitude of Ca2+ oscillations induced by ATP, and, in unstimulated cells, induced single Ca2+ transients or even Ca2+ oscillations. The cAMP-dependent protein kinase inhibitor H89 totally prevented the effect of cAMP-elevating agents on Ca2+ signalling. Forskolin and 8-Br-cAMP promptly increased the rate of Mn2+ quenching, when administered in the presence of ATP, suggesting a potentiation of receptor-mediated Ca2+ influx. In Ca2+-free medium, ATP-induced Ca2+ oscillations decreased and stopped after a few cycles: subsequent ATP additions temporarily resumed the activity, an effect that could be mimicked by forskolin. The same agent induced single Ca2+ transients in 42% of the cell population maintained in Ca2+-free medium. Thapsigargin prevented Ca2+ responses to both ATP and forskolin. The results indicate a dual mechanism for cAMP-induced potentiation of Ca2+ signalling in articular chondrocytes: an increase of receptor-mediated Ca2+ influx and a positive modulation of intracellular Ca2+ release.

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