Visualizing calcium responses to acetylcholine convection along endothelium of arteriolar networks in Cx40BAC-GCaMP2 transgenic mice

Pooneh Bagher, Michael J. Davis, Steven S. Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Acetylcholine evokes endothelium-dependent vasodilation subsequent to a rise in intracellular calcium. Despite widespread application in human and animal studies, calcium responses to intravascular ACh have not been visualized in vivo. Microiontophoresis of ACh in tissue adjacent to an arteriole activates abluminal muscarinic receptors on endothelial cells within a "local" region of diffusion, but it is unknown whether ACh released in such fashion gains access to the flow stream resulting in further actions downstream. To test this hypothesis and provide new insight into calcium signaling in vivo, we studied the cremaster muscle microcirculation of anesthetized male Cx40BAC-GCaMP2 transgenic mice (n = 22; 5-9 mo; 33 ± 1 g) expressing the fluorescent calcium sensor GCaMP2 selectively in arteriolar endothelial cells. Submaximal ACh stimuli were delivered using microiontophoresis (1-μm pipette tip, 500 nA). With stimulus duration <500 ms or with the micropipette positioned within one vessel diameter (~30 μm) away from an arteriole, endothelial cell calcium fluorescence was restricted to the region of ACh diffusion (<200 μm). In contrast, with the micropipette tip positioned immediately adjacent to an arteriole or within its lumen, calcium fluorescence encompassed entire networks downstream. The velocity of downstream calcium signaling in response to ACh increased with centerline velocity of fluorescent tracer microbeads (r2 = 0.99; range: <1 mm/s to >10 mm/s). Diverting arteriolar blood flow into a side branch redirected downstream fluorescence responses to ACh; occluding flow abolished responses. Blocking luminal muscarinic receptors (intravascular glycopyrrolate; 6 μg/kg) inhibited downstream responses reversibly. Through visualizing the actions of a "local" ACh stimulus on endothelial cell calcium fluorescence in vivo, the present findings illustrate that transmural diffusion and convection of an agonist can activate entire networks of arteriolar endothelial cells concomitant with its delivery in the flow stream.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)H794-H802
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Blood flow
  • Calcium signaling
  • Cremaster muscle
  • Endothelial cells
  • Intravital microscopy
  • Microcirculation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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