We have investigated the fate of the large amounts of calcium ingested by Rhodnius prolixus in its meals of blood. 45Ca2+ injected into the haemolymph or fed to fifth-stage Rhodnius reared on rabbits is accumulated at high concentrations in the cells of the upper Malpighian tubules; very little is excreted from the body This 45Ca2+ accumulation goes on continuously for at least 12 days and the rate of uptake is increased several-fold within 3–4 days of a meal. The extent of calcium accumulation in tubule cells is correlated with the presence of intracellular membrane-bound concretion bodies, which are therefore likely sites of calcium deposition. X-ray diffraction showed that the calcium deposits are non-crystalline. Tubules from rabbit-fed fifth-stage Rhodnius contain 410 mmol l-1 calcium; in those from chicken-fed insects the calcium concentration is over 1 mol l-1; and in those fed in vitro on heparinised low-K+ sheep blood the calcium concentration is only 21 mmol l-1. The concentration of calcium in the haemolymph in all these insects was 8 mmol l-1 and its activity determined by an ion-selective electrode was 2.5 mmol l-1. 45Ca2+ deposited in the tubules is readily exchangeable, but the efflux preferentially passes to the haemolymph side of the tubule epithelium. The ability to sequester calcium in the Malpighian tubules may prevent calcium from interfering with reabsorptive processes in the rectum.

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