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Sci Rep. 2017 Feb 20;7:42786. doi: 10.1038/srep42786.

Calcium spikes, waves and oscillations in a large, patterned epithelial tissue.

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Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Center for Biological Systems Analysis, Habsburgerstrasse 49, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.
Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, Faculty of Biology, Grosshadernerstrasse 2-4, 82152 Planegg-Martinsried, Germany.


While calcium signaling in excitable cells, such as muscle or neurons, is extensively characterized, calcium signaling in epithelial tissues is little understood. Specifically, the range of intercellular calcium signaling patterns elicited by tightly coupled epithelial cells and their function in the regulation of epithelial characteristics are little explored. We found that in Drosophila imaginal discs, a widely studied epithelial model organ, complex spatiotemporal calcium dynamics occur. We describe patterns that include intercellular waves traversing large tissue domains in striking oscillatory patterns as well as spikes confined to local domains of neighboring cells. The spatiotemporal characteristics of intercellular waves and oscillations arise as emergent properties of calcium mobilization within a sheet of gap-junction coupled cells and are influenced by cell size and environmental history. While the in vivo function of spikes, waves and oscillations requires further characterization, our genetic experiments suggest that core calcium signaling components guide actomyosin organization. Our study thus suggests a possible role for calcium signaling in epithelia but importantly, introduces a model epithelium enabling the dissection of cellular mechanisms supporting the initiation, transmission and regeneration of long-range intercellular calcium waves and the emergence of oscillations in a highly coupled multicellular sheet.

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