Effect of calcium on the vascular contraction induced by cobra venom cardiotoxin
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1. The cytotoxic effects of cardiotoxin (CTX) purified from Cobra venom were tested in endothelium-denuded rat aortic ring preparations in tissue organ baths and the effect of extracellular Ca2+ on the cytotoxic effect of CTX was investigated using a digital dynamic calcium imaging technique. 2. At 10 micromol/L, CTX induced a slowly developing and sustained contraction that amounted to approximately 50% of the maximal contraction induced by 80 mmol/L KCl. At high concentrations (> 15 micromol/L), CTX caused irreversible damage to the smooth muscle contractile function. However, washout of CTX at its peak contraction did not affect the subsequent contraction to either KCl or phenylephrine. 3. Contraction induced by CTX was dependent on the Ca2+ concentration in the external solution. A maximal contractile response to CTX was obtained in medium containing 1-2.5 mmol/L Ca2+. This contractile response induced by CTX decreased with higher Ca2+ concentrations and was completely diminished when 7 mmol/L Ca2+, 3 mmol/L Ni2+ or 30 micromol/L tetrandrine (a non-selective calcium channel blocker) was present in the external solution before addition of CTX to the bath. 4. The above observations were supported by the calcium imaging work performed with cultured aortic smooth muscle cells from Wistar-Kyoto rats, in which CTX was shown to induce the elevation of cytosolic Ca2+ in the presence, but not in the absence, of 2.5 mmol/L extracellular Ca2+. Increasing the extracellular Ca2+ concentration to 7 mmol/L, the addition of 3 mmol/L Ni2+ or inclusion of 30 micro mol/L tetrandrine inhibited the elevation of cytosolic Ca2+ induced by CTX. 5. These results suggest that: (i) a CTX-sensitive internal calcium store does not exist in rat aortic smooth muscle; (ii) the contractile effect CTX is associated with a Ca2+ influx process; and (iii) CTX interacts extracellularly with the plasma membrane at the level of the calcium channels, as well as anionic sites to which Ca2+ and other inorganic cations bind.
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