RyR3 is expressed more widely, but especially in the brain.
Non-mammalian vertebrates typically express two RyR isoforms, referred to as RyR-alpha and RyR-beta.
Many invertebrates, including the model organisms Drosophila melanogaster (fruitfly) and Caenorhabditis elegans only have a single isoform. In non-metazoan species, calcium-release channels with sequence homology to RyRs can be found, but they are shorter than the mammalian ones and may be closer to IP3 Receptors.
It has been shown that calcium release from a number of ryanodine receptors in a ryanodine receptor cluster results in a spatiotemporally restricted rise in cytosolic calcium that can be visualised as a calcium spark. Ryanodine receptors are very close to mitochondria and calcium release from RyR has been shown to regulate ATP production in heart and pancreas cells.
Ryanodine receptors are similar to the inositol trisphosphate (IP3) receptor, and stimulated to transport Ca2+ into the cytosol by recognizing Ca2+ on its cytosolic side, thus establishing a positive feedback mechanism; a small amount of Ca2+ in the cytosol near the receptor will cause it to release even more Ca2+ (calcium-induced calcium release/CICR).
RyRs form docking platforms for a multitude of proteins and small molecule ligands. The cardiac-specific isoform of the receptor (RyR2) is known to form a quaternary complex with luminal calsequestrin, junctin, and triadin. Calsequestrin has multiple Ca2+ binding sites and binds Ca2+ ions with very low affinity so they can be easily released.
Xanthines like caffeine and pentifylline activate it by potentiating sensitivity to native ligand Ca.
Physiological agonist: Cyclic ADP-ribose can act as a physiological gating agent. It has been suggested that it may act by making FKBP12.6 (12.6 kilodalton FK506 binding protein, as opposed to 12 kDa FKBP12 which binds to RyR1) which normally bind (and blocks) RyR2 channel tetramer in an average stoichiometry of 3.6, to fall off RyR2 (which is the predominant RyR in pancreatic beta cells, cardiomyocytes and smooth muscles).
The plant alkaloid ryanodine, for which this receptor was named, has become an invaluable investigative tool. It can block the phasic release of calcium, but at low doses may not block the tonic cumulative calcium release. The binding of ryanodine to RyRs is use-dependent, that is the channels have to be in the activated state. At low (<10 MicroMolar, works even at nanomolar) concentrations, ryanodine binding locks the RyRs into a long-lived subconductance (half-open) state and eventually depletes the store, while higher (~100 MicroMolar) concentrations irreversibly inhibit channel-opening.
RyRs are activated by millimolar caffeine concentrations. High (greater than 5 mmol/L) caffeine concentrations cause a pronounced increase (from micromolar to picomolar) in the sensitivity of RyRs to Ca2+ in the presence of caffeine, such that basal Ca2+ concentrations become activatory. At low millimolar caffeine concentrations, the receptor opens in a quantal way, but has complicated behavior in terms of repeated use of caffeine or dependence on cytosolic or luminal calcium concentrations.
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