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The effects of membrane potential on resting and bradykinin-stimulated changes in [Ca2+]i- were measured in fura-2 loaded cultured endothelial cells from bovine atria by spectrofluorimetry. The basal and bradykinin-stimulated release of endothelium- derived relaxing factor, monitored by bioassay methods, were dependent on extracellular Ca2+. Similarly, the plateau phase of the biphasic [Ca2+]i response to bradykinin stimulation exhibited a dependence on extracellular Ca2+, whereas the initial transient [Ca2+], peak was refractory to the removal of extracellular Ca2+. The effect of membrane depolarization on the plateau phase of the bradykinin-induced change in [Ca2+]i- was determined by varying [K+]o. The resting membrane potential measured under current clamp conditions was positively correlated with the extracellular [K+] (52 mV change/10-fold change in [K+]O). The observed decrease in resting and bradykinin-stimulated changes in [Ca2+]i upon depolarization is consistent with an ion transport mechanism where the influx is linearly related to the electrochemical gradient for Ca2+ entry (Em - ECa). The inhibition of bradykinin-stimulated Ca2+ entry by isotonic K+ was not due to the absence of extracellular Na+ since Li+ substitution did not inhibit the agonist-induced Ca2+ entry. In K+-free solutions and in the presence of ouabain, bradykinin evoked synchronized oscillations in [Ca2+]i in confluent endothelial cell monolayers. These [Ca2+]i oscillations between the plateau and resting [Ca2+]i levels were dependent on extracellular Ca2+ and K+ concentrations. Although the mechanism(s) underlying [Ca2+]i oscillations in vascular endothelial cells is unclear, these results suggest a role of the membrane conductance.