During oscillatory Ca2+ signals, the agonist-induced enhanced entry of extracellular Ca2+ plays a critical role in modulating the frequency of the oscillations. Although it was originally assumed that the entry of Ca2+ under these conditions occurred via the well-known, and apparently ubiquitous, store-operated mechanism, subsequent studies suggested that this was unlikely. It is now known that, in many cell types, a novel non-capacitative Ca2+-selective pathway whose activation is dependent on arachidonic acid is responsible, and the channels involved [ARC channels (arachidonate-regulated Ca2+ channels)] have been characterized. These ARC channels co-exist with the store-operated CRAC channels (Ca2+-release-activated Ca2+ channel) in cells, but each plays a unique and non-overlapping role in Ca2+ signalling. In particular, it is the ARC channels that are specifically activated at the low agonist concentrations that give rise to oscillatory Ca2+ signals and provide the predominant mode of Ca2+ entry under these conditions. The indications are that Ca2+ entry through the ARC channels increases the likelihood that low concentrations of Ins(1,4,5)P3 will trigger repetitive Ca2+ release. At higher agonist concentrations, store-depletion is more complete and sustained resulting in the activation of CRAC channels. At the same time the ARC channels are turned off, resulting in what we have described as a reciprocal regulation of these two distinct Ca2+ entry pathways.

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