- In addition to their role in signaling, Ca2+ ions in the endoplasmic reticulum also regulate important steps in protein processing and trafficking that are critical for normal cell function. Chronic depletion of Ca2+ in the endoplasmic reticulum has been shown to lead to cell degeneration and has been proposed as a mechanism underlying delayed neuronal death following ischemic insults to the CNS. Experiments here have assessed the relative content of ryanodine receptor-gated stores in CA1 neurons by measuring cytoplasmic Ca2+ increases induced by caffeine. These measurements were performed on CA1 neurons, in slice, from normal gerbils, and compared with responses from this same population of neurons 54-60 h after animals had undergone a standard ischemic insult: 5-min bilateral occlusion of the carotid arteries. The mean amplitude of responses in the postischemic population were less than one-third of those in control or sham-operated animals, and 35% of the neurons from postischemic animals showed very small responses that were approximately 10% of the control population mean. Refilling of these stores after caffeine challenges was also impaired in postischemic neurons. These observations are consistent with our earlier finding that voltage-gated influx is sharply reduced in postischemic in CA1 neurons and the hypothesis that the resulting depletion in endosomal Ca2+ is an important cause of delayed neuronal death.