We have explored the factors that may regulate membrane permeability in a cell line (NCL‐SG3) derived from the human sweat gland epithelium. Ionomycin increased the rate of 125I‐efflux from preloaded cells and this action appeared to be due to an increase in intracellular free calcium ([Ca2+]i). The ionomycin‐evoked increase in 125I‐ efflux was reduced in cells that were exposed either to barium or to valinomycin in the presence of a high concentration of external potassium. It thus appears that a fraction of the ionomycin‐evoked increase in 125I‐ efflux is due to the activation of potassium channels and experiments using 86Rb+ also suggested that ionomycin increased the rate of potassium efflux, an effect which was totally abolished by barium. Blockade of Na(+)‐K(+)‐2Cl‐ cotransport and of Cl‐ ‐HCO3‐ exchange reduced the basal rate of 125I‐ efflux and the ionomycin‐evoked increase in 125I‐efflux from control cells and from cells depolarized by valinomycin. These transport systems thus contribute to anion efflux, although [Ca2+]i‐dependent chloride channels also appear to be present. Acetylcholine increases [Ca2+]i in the secretory cells of human sweat glands, but this neurotransmitter did not increase [Ca2+]i in NCL‐SG3 cells and so membrane permeability was not under cholinergic control. Adrenaline did not increase [Ca2+]i, but this hormone did evoke cyclic‐3',5'‐adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP) production. However, membrane permeability was not under adrenergic control, as the cells did not appear to express functional, cyclic AMP‐dependent anion channels. This may be because they were not fully differentiated under the culture conditions. ATP consistently evoked a dose‐dependent increase in anion efflux that appeared to be mediated by [Ca2+]i. The increase in [Ca2+]i was initiated by the release of calcium from a limited internal store and was subsequently sustained by calcium influx. UTP and ADP also increased [Ca2+]i, whereas adenosine, AMP and alpha,beta‐methylene ATP were without effect. These data thus suggest that a subclass of type 2 purine receptor, which is functionally coupled to phosphoinositidase C, is present in these cells.
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