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Cell Calcium. 2007 Aug;42(2):193-203. Epub 2007 Mar 21.

Physiological roles of STIM1 and Orai1 homologs and CRAC channels in the genetic model organism Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN 37232-2520, United States.


The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans provides numerous experimental advantages for developing an integrative molecular understanding of physiological processes and has proven to be a valuable model for characterizing Ca(2+) signaling mechanisms. This review will focus on the role of Ca(2+) release activated Ca(2+) (CRAC) channel activity in function of the worm gonad and intestine. Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP(3))-dependent oscillatory Ca(2+) signaling regulates contractile activity of the gonad and rhythmic posterior body wall muscle contraction (pBoc) required for ovulation and defecation, respectively. The C. elegans genome contains a single homolog of both STIM1 and Orai1, proteins required for CRAC channel function in mammalian and Drosophila cells. C. elegans STIM-1 and ORAI-1 are coexpressed in the worm gonad and intestine and give rise to robust CRAC channel activity when coexpressed in HEK293 cells. STIM-1 or ORAI-1 knockdown causes complete sterility demonstrating that the genes are essential components of gonad Ca(2+) signaling. Knockdown of either protein dramatically inhibits intestinal cell CRAC channel activity, but surprisingly has no effect on pBoc, intestinal Ca(2+) oscillations or intestinal ER Ca(2+) store homeostasis. CRAC channels thus do not play obligate roles in all IP(3)-dependent signaling processes in C. elegans. Instead, we suggest that CRAC channels carry out highly specialized and cell specific signaling roles and that they may function as a failsafe mechanism to prevent Ca(2+) store depletion under pathophysiological and stress conditions.

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