Calcium signalling

Berridge, Michael; Lipp, Peter and Bootman, Martin (1999). Calcium signalling. Current Biology, 9(5) R157-R159.




Cellular signalling mechanisms are designed to transmit information from the cell surface membrane to specific targets within the cell.

Often, the information is transmitted by means of intracellular messengers, of which the calcium ion, Ca2+, is one of the most important. Indeed, Ca2+ operates throughout the life history of a typical cell: it triggers new life at fertilisation, it controls many developmental processes, and once cells have differentiated it functions to control processes as diverse as contraction, secretion, metabolism, proliferation, learning and memory. New roles for Ca2+ are constantly being defined.

How can a simple ion such as Ca2+ control all these things? The answer lies in the fact that Ca2+ signals are enormously versatile. For example, Ca2+ can operate within small cellular compartments, or it can act more globally and pervade the entire cytoplasm of a cell and also penetrate organelles such as mitochondria and the nucleus. Furthermore, Ca2+ signals can have durations lasting from microseconds to hours, and can occur transiently or in a pulsatile manner.

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