Calcium is a ubiquitous second messenger that plays a critical role in both excitable and non-excitable cells. Calcium mobilisation in identified cell types within an intact renal epithelium, the Drosophila melanogaster Malpighian tubule, was studied by GAL4-directed expression of an aequorin transgene. CAP2b, a cardioactive neuropeptide that stimulates fluid secretion by a mechanism involving nitric oxide, causes a rapid, dose-dependent rise in cytosolic calcium in only a single, genetically-defined, set of 77 principal cells in the main (secretory) segment of the tubule. In the absence of external calcium, the CAP2b-induced calcium response is abolished. In Ca2+-free medium, the endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase inhibitor, thapsigargin, elevates [Ca2+]i only in the smaller stellate cells, suggesting that principal cells do not contain a thapsigargin-sensitive intracellular pool. Assays for epithelial function confirm that calcium entry is essential for CAP2b to induce a physiological response in the whole organ. Furthermore, the data suggest a role for calcium signalling in the modulation of the nitric oxide signalling pathway in this epithelium. The GAL4-targeting system allows general application to studies of cell-signalling and pharmacology that does not rely on invasive or cytotoxic techniques.

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