Secretion of vesicular contents by exocytosis is a common feature of neuroendocrine secretory cells such as adrenal chromaffin cells and PC12 cells. Although it is clear that in these cells an elevation in intracellular calcium concentration, [Ca2+]i, is the triggering event that induces secretion, recent studies using video-imaging, patch-clamp and flash photolysis techniques have all indicated that the Ca2+ signal that triggers secretion is in fact very complex, with the subcellular distribution of Ca2+ being of particular importance along with the magnitude of the rise. It has become evident that Ca2+ signals with different spatial profiles can be triggered in the same cell by a given stimulus, depending upon the nature of the Ca2+ signalling pathway activated, and that this ability to be able to vary the method of delivery of Ca2+ into the cell is important physiologically, because it provides a means of obtaining differential activation of Ca(2+)-dependent processes.

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