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Biol Res. 2002;35(2):177-82.

Calcium signal compartmentalization.

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MRC Secretory Control Research Group, Physiological Laboratory, University of Liiverpool, Crown Street, Liverpool L69 3BX, UK.


Cytosolic calcium signals are produced by suddenly increasing the concentration of free calcium ions (Ca2+). This can occur by opening channels permeable to Ca2+ either in the surface cell membrane or in the membranes of intracellular organelles containing high Ca2+ concentrations. Ca2+ signals can control several different processes, even in the same cell. In pancreatic acinar cells, for example, Ca2+ signals do not only control the normal secretion of digestive enzymes, but can also activate autodigestion and programmed cell death. Recent technical advances have shown that different patterns of Ca2+ signals can be created, in space and time, which allow specific cellular responses to be elicited. The mechanisms responsible for Ca2+ signal compartmentalization are now largely known and will be described on the basis of recent studies of Ca2+ transport pathways and their regulation in pancreatic acinar cells. It turns out that the Ca2+ handling as well as the structural characteristics of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the mitochondria are of particular importance. Using a variety of Ca(2+)-sensitive fluorescent probes placed in different sub-cellular compartments in combination with local uncaging of caged Ca2+, many new insights into Ca2+ signal generation, compartmentalization and termination have recently been obtained.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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