Malignant hyperthermia (MH), an inherited neuromuscular disease triggered by halogenated inhalational anaesthetics and skeletal-muscle relaxants, appears to be due to an alteration of intracellular Ca2+ homoeostasis. MH occurs in 1 out of 20,000 anaesthetized adults and is characterized by hypermetabolism, skeletal-muscle rigidity and elevation in body temperature, which is frequently fatal [MacLennan and Phillips (1992) Science 256, 789-794]. The defect responsible for the disease may lie within the mechanism controlling the release of Ca2+ from sarcoplasmic reticulum via the ryanodine-receptor (RYR) Ca2+ channel; in fact a point mutation in the RYR has been associated with MH in some human families, as well as in the MH-susceptible pig. To date, however, no direct evidence has been obtained demonstrating that the point mutation is both necessary and sufficient to cause functional alterations in RYR-mediated Ca2+ release. In the present report we show that the presence of the Arg-to-Cys point mutation in the recombinant RYR expressed in COS-7 transfected cells causes abnormal cytosolic Ca2+ transients in response to 4-chloro-m-cresol, an agent capable of eliciting in vitro contracture of MH-susceptible muscle
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