Submaximum and maximum forces of the cardiac muscle contractile apparatus, activated by Ca2+ or Sr2+, were determined as a function of Mg2+ concentration. Apical left ventricular tissue from Sprague-Dawley rats was broken by homogenization into small bundles of fibers with disrupted sarcolemmas (skinned). Tension generation was activated by and graded according to the concentration of Ca2+ or Sr2+ in solutions bathing the skinned fibers and measured with a photodiode force transducer. Steady-state tensions for various levels of activation at each of four concentrations of Mg2+ (5 x 10-5, 1 x 10-3, 5 x 10-3, and 10 x 10-3 M) in the bathing solutions were analyzed. Other bathing solution constituents and parameters mimicked significant normal intracellular conditions while providing adequate buffering of [H+], [Ca2+], and [MgATP2-] (magnesium adenosine triphosphate). To assess changes in sensitivity of the mechanical system to activation by Ca2+ (or Sr2+), each submaximum tension was expressed as a percentage of the given fiber bundle's maximum force at saturating [Ca2+] (or [Sr2+]) at the same [Mg2+]. When plotted as saturation curves these data demonstrate that increasing [Mg2+] depresses Ca2+ sensitivity of the force-generating mechanism. The Ca2+ and Sr2+ sensitivity of the cardiac force-generating apparatus is very similar at every [Mg2+], indicating that the magnitude of Mg2+ effect is similar for both types of activation. However, absolute maximum tensions at saturating activating cation concentration increased as [Mg2+] increased; the effect of Mg2+ on maximum force was proportionately the same for Ca2+ and Sr2+ activation. But because saturating [Ca2+] always resulted in a lower maximum force than saturating [Sr2+], this site of Ca2+-Mg2+ interaction appears distinct from the one influencing Ca2+ sensitivity.
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