Ethanol strongly augments secretin-stimulated, but not acetylcholine (ACh)-stimulated, fluid secretion from pancreatic duct cells. To understand its mechanism of action, we examined the effect of short-chain n-alcohols on fluid secretion and intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca 2+]i) in guinea pig pancreatic ducts. Fluid secretion was measured by monitoring the luminal volume of isolated interlobular ducts. [Ca2+]i was estimated using fura-2 microfluorometry. Methanol and ethanol at 0.3-10 mM concentrations significantly augmented fluid secretion and induced a transient elevation of [Ca2+]i in secretin- or dibutyryl adenosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate (DBcAMP)-stimulated ducts. However, they failed to affect fluid secretion and [Ca2+]i in unstimulated and ACh-stimulated ducts. In contrast, propanol and butanol at 0.3-10 mM concentrations significantly reduced fluid secretion and decreased [Ca2+]i in unstimulated ducts and in ducts stimulated with secretin, DBcAMP, or ACh. Both stimulatory and inhibitory effects of n-alcohols completely disappeared after their removal from the perfusate. Propanol and butanol inhibited the plateau phase, but not the initial peak, of [Ca2+]i response to ACh as well as the [Ca2+]i elevation induced by thapsigargin, suggesting that they inhibit Ca2+ influx. Removal of extracellular Ca 2+ reduced [Ca2+]i in duct cells and completely abolished secretin-stimulated fluid secretion. In conclusion, there is a distinct cutoff point between ethanol (C2) and propanol (C3) in their effects on fluid secretion and [Ca2+]i in duct cells. Short-chain n-alcohols appear to affect pancreatic ductal fluid secretion by activating or inhibiting the plasma membrane Ca2+ channel.
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