Calmodulin has been shown to perform several important functions in the lens including regulation of the plasma membrane Ca(2+)-ATPase. This study investigated the effects of a variety of different CaM antagonists on rat lens membrane potential, membrane resistance, intracellular Na+ and Ca2+ content and transparency, in order to examine the role of CaM in control of lens membrane permeability. W7, calmidazolium and trifluoperazine caused biphasic changes in lens membrane electrical characteristics. Phase 1 consisted of a depolarization of the membrane potential and an increase in resistance, indicating that K+ channels were being blocked. This was confirmed by application of the K+ channel antagonist, quinine, which inhibited Phase 1 changes. Phase 2 was a further depolarization coupled with a decrease in resistance, indicating the activation of a cation conductance. Application of W7 in low Na+ medium slowed the Phase 2 depolarization and decrease in resistance indicating that Na+ is the main charge carrier through the activated conductance. The CaM inhibitors also led to a large increase in the Na+ and Ca2+ contents of the lens. W5, a less potent analogue of W7, caused a depolarization and increase in membrane resistance, but no Phase 2 changes were observed. Na+ and Ca2+ contents were similar to control lenses after 4 hours incubation in 200 microM W5. In addition, exposure to W7, TFP and calmidazolium resulted in a loss of transparency, while W5 treated lenses remained clear. It appears, therefore, that CaM is involved in control of lens membrane permeability. Loss of control of these channels leads to catastrophic changes in the intracellular ionic environment and hence opacification of the lens.
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