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Exp Eye Res. 2009 Feb;88(2):226-34. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2008.10.025. Epub 2008 Nov 18.

The mechanisms of calcium homeostasis and signalling in the lens.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK.


Excessive Ca(2+) can be detrimental to cells and raised levels of Ca(2+) in human lenses with cortical cataract have been found to play a major role in the opacification process. Ca(2+) homeostasis is therefore, recognised as having fundamental importance in lens pathophysiology. Furthermore, Ca(2+) plays a central role as a second messenger in cell signalling and mechanisms have evolved which give cells exquisite control over intracellular Ca(2+) ([Ca(2+)](i)) via an array of specialised regulatory and signalling proteins. In this review we discuss these mechanisms as they apply to the lens. Ca(2+) levels in human aqueous humour are approximately 1 mM and there is a large, 10,000 fold, inwardly directed gradient across the plasma membrane. In the face of such a large gradient highly efficient mechanisms are needed to maintain low [Ca(2+)](i). The Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger (NCX) and plasma membrane Ca(2+)-ATPase (PMCA) actively remove Ca(2+) from the cells, whereas the sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPase (SERCA) sequesters Ca(2+) in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca(2+) store. In lens epithelial cells the dominant role is played by the ATPases, whilst in the fibre cells NCX activity appears to be more important. Usually, [Ca(2+)](i) can be increased in a number of ways. Ca(2+) influx through the plasma membrane, for example, is mediated by an array of channels with evidence in the lens for the presence of voltage-operated Ca(2+) channels (VOCCs), receptor-operated Ca(2+) channels (ROCCs) and channels mediating store-operated Ca(2+) entry (SOCE). Ca(2+) signalling is initiated via activation of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) of which the lens expresses a surprisingly diverse array responding to various neurotransmitters, hormones, growth factors, autocoids and proteases. Downstream of plasma membrane receptors are IP(3)-gated channels (IP(3)Rs) and ryanodine receptors (RYRs) located in the ER, which when activated cause a rapid increase in [Ca(2+)](i) and these have also been identified in the lens. Through an appreciation of the diversity and complexity of the mechanisms involved in Ca(2+) homeostasis in normal lens cells we move closer to an understanding of the mechanisms which mediate pathological Ca(2+) overload as occurs in the process of cataract formation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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