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J Cell Biol. 1982 August 1; 94(2): 325–334.
PMCID: PMC2112871

Calcium homeostasis in intact lymphocytes: cytoplasmic free calcium monitored with a new, intracellularly trapped fluorescent indicator


A new, fluorescent, highly selective Ca2+ indicator , "quin2", has been trapped inside intact mouse and pig lymphocytes, to measure and manipulate cytoplasmic free Ca2+ concentrations, [Ca2+]i. Quin2 is a tetracarboxylic acid which binds Ca2+ with 1:1 stoichiometry and an effective dissociation constant of 115 nM in a cationic background mimicking cytoplasm. Its fluorescence signal (excitation 339 nm, emission 492 nm) increases about fivefold going from Ca-free to CA- saturated forms. Cells are loaded with quin2 by incubation with its acetoxymethyl ester, which readily permeates the membrane and is hydrolyzed in the cytoplasm, thus trapping the impermeant quin2 there. The intracellular quin2 appears to be free in cytoplasm, not bound to membranes and not sequestered inside organelles. The fluorescence signal from resting cells indicates a [Ca2+]i of near 120 nM. The millimolar loadings of quin2 needed for accurately calibrated signals do not seem to perturb steady-state [Ca2+]i, but do somewhat slow or blunt [Ca2+]i transients. Loadings of up to 2mM are without serious toxic effects, though above this level some lowering of cellular ATP is observed. [Ca2+]i was well stabilized in the face of large changes in external Ca2+. Alterations of Na+ gradients, membrane potential, or intracellular pH had little effect. Mitochondrial poisons produced a small increase in [Ca2+]i, probably due mostly to the effects of severe ATP depletion on the plasma membrane. Thus intracellulary trapped chelators like quin2 offer a method to measure or buffer [Ca2+]i in hitherto intractable cell types.

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