This study examines whether the salivary duct cells of the cockroach Periplaneta americana can be stimulated by the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. We have carried out digital Ca2+-imaging experiments using the Ca2+-sensitive dye fura-2 and conventional intracellular recordings from isolated salivary glands. Dopamine evokes a slow, almost tonic, and reversible dose-dependent elevation in [Ca2+]i in the duct cells. Upon stimulation with 10(−)6 mol l-1 dopamine, [Ca2+]i rises from 48+/−4 nmol l-1 to 311+/−43 nmol l-1 (mean +/− s.e.m., N=18) within 200–300 s. The dopamine-induced elevation in [Ca2+]i is absent in Ca2+-free saline and is blocked by 10(−)4 mol l-1 La3+, indicating that dopamine induces an influx of Ca2+ across the basolateral membrane of the duct cells. Stimulation with 10(−)6 mol l-1 dopamine causes the basolateral membrane to depolarize from −67+/−1 to −41+/−2 mV (N=10). This depolarization is also blocked by La3+ and is abolished when Na+ in the bath solution is reduced to 10 mmol l-1. Serotonin affects neither [Ca2+]i nor the basolateral membrane potential of the duct cells. These data indicate that the neurotransmitter dopamine, which has previously been shown to stimulate fluid secretion from the glands, also stimulates the salivary duct cells, suggesting that dopamine controls their most probable function, the modification of primary saliva.

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