Measurements of intracellular Ca2+ in adrenal medullary cells suggest that a transient rise in Ca2+ leads to a transient secretory response, the rise in Ca2+ being brought about by an influx through voltage-sensitive Ca channels which subsequently inactivate. The level of Ca2+ observed is much smaller than the Ca2+ needed to trigger secretion when introduced directly into the cell. The discrepancy is removed by the presence of diacylglycerot, which increases the sensitivity of the secretory process to Ca2+. The site of action of Ca2+ and diacylglycerol is probably protein kinase C, and tile different secretory responses to increases of Ca2+ and diacylglycerol can be modelled in terms of a preferential order of binding of these two substrates to the enzyme. ATP is needed for secretion: one role is possibly to confer stability to the secretory apparatus; another may involve phosphorylation of some key protein. The kinetics of secretion suggest that if Ca2+ regulates phosphorylation or dephosphorylation, then it is the rate of change of phosphorylation that controls secretion rather than the extent of phosphorylation or dephosphorylation. Guanine nucleotide-binding proteins may play a role not only at the level of signal transduction coupling, but also at or near the site of exocytosis, and the mechanism by which some Botulinum toxins inhibit secretion may be associated with these proteins.

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