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Manganese (II) bis(glycinate)dichloride (Mn(glycinate)2) is a coordination complex of manganese with application as a contrast enhancement agent for magnetic resonance imaging in the heart. To determine the cardioactivity of the manganese ion in this chelation cage, the effects of Mn(glycinate)2 on Ca channel function in the cultured chick atrial cell was studied. Mn(glycinate)2 decreased amplitude of contraction in chick atrial cells from embryos 14 days in ovo with complete inhibition of beating at 1 mM and half-maximal effect at 0.1 mM. Under control conditions, Bay K 8644, a Ca channel activator increased amplitude of contraction by 86% with a half maximal effect at 3.2 x 10(-7) M. In the presence of 0.025 mM Mn(glycinate)2, a concentration which had no effect on the amplitude of contraction, the maximum response to Bay K 8644 was decreased to 31%. Mn(glycinate)2 had no effect on the EC50 for the response to Bay K 8644, 1.7 +/- 0.1 x 10(-9) M (S.E.M., n = 4) in control cells compared to 2.2 +/- 0.4 x 10(-9) M (S.E.M., n = 4) in cells incubated with Mn(glycinate)2. 45Ca2+ uptake over 5 min in cultured chick atrial cells decreased from 2.0 nmol/mg protein in control cells to 1.5 nmol/mg protein in the presence of 10(-5) M PN200-110, a Ca2+ channel blocker, a decrease of 28%. 45Ca2+ uptake decreased to 0.94 nmol/mg protein (53%) in the presence of 1 nmol Mn(glycinate)2. Effects of Mn(glycinate)2 and PN200 were not additive. These data demonstrate that Mn(glycinate)2 exerts its negative inotropic effect, at least partially, by interfering with the function of the L-type Ca channels at high concentrations.