Sarcoplasmic reticulum

The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) is a membrane-bound structure found within muscle cells that is similar to the smooth endoplasmic reticulum in other cells. The main function of the SR is to store calcium ions (Ca2+). Calcium ion levels are kept relatively constant, with the concentration of calcium ions within a cell being 10,000 times smaller than the concentration of calcium ions outside the cell.[1] This means that small increases in calcium ions within the cell are easily detected and can bring about important cellular changes (the calcium is said to be a second messenger). Calcium is used to make calcium carbonate (found in chalk) and calcium phosphate, two compounds that the body uses to make teeth and bones. This means that too much calcium within the cells can lead to hardening (calcification) of certain intracellular structures, including the mitochondria,[2] leading to cell death. Therefore, it is vital that calcium ion levels are controlled tightly, and can be released into the cell when necessary and then removed from the cell.

A cartoon section of skeletal muscle, showing T-tubules running deep into the centre of the cell between two terminal cisternae/junctional SR. The thinner projections, running horizontally between two terminal cisternae are the longitudinal sections of the SR.

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