Calcium has been proposed as an intracellular second messenger for activation of secretion, phagocytosis, and the oxidative burst of neutrophils. We have examined the role of calcium in human monocyte activation. Concanavalin A (Con A)-stimulated monocytes displayed an increment in cytoplasmic ionized calcium at 31 +/- 6 s and the onset of superoxide production at 61 +/- 9 s. The increase in cytoplasmic calcium invariably preceded the onset of superoxide production. If the external calcium concentration was reduced to less than 28 nM by the addition of 10 mM EGTA, superoxide production was not diminished at 5 min; however, superoxide production decreased thereafter. The Con A-evoked increment in cytoplasmic ionized calcium was blunted upon the addition of EGTA and decreased further with time. Both the production of superoxide and the Con A-evoked increment in cytoplasmic ionized calcium displayed a 50% inhibition after 15 min of calcium depletion and were completely inhibited after 60 min. Total cell calcium fell from 0.7 to 0.5 fmol/cell, and the basal level of ionized calcium fell from 83 to 30 nM after 60 min. Histidine, a strong chelator of divalent cations other than calcium and magnesium, had no effect on monocyte superoxide production or on ionized calcium concentrations, indicating that EGTA inhibition was due to cell calcium depletion. In calcium-depleted cells, Con A did not evoke superoxide production until calcium was restored to the incubation medium. The restoration of calcium to Con A-treated, calcium-depleted monocytes permitted a rapid rise in the cytoplasmic ionized calcium, and the production of superoxide within 9 s. These data suggest that an increase in ionized cytoplasmic calcium is necessary for the activation of monocyte superoxide production by Con A. The rise in ionized calcium in response to Con A results, in part, from an internal redistribution of calcium, which is sufficient to permit superoxide generation.
S P Scully, G B Segel, M A Lichtman