Ca2+ Microdomains, Calcineurin and the Regulation of Gene Transcription


Ca2+ ions function as second messengers regulating many intracellular events, including neurotransmitter release, exocytosis, muscle contraction, metabolism and gene transcription. Cells of a multicellular organism express a variety of cell-surface receptors and channels that trigger an increase of the intracellular Ca2+ concentration upon stimulation. The elevated Ca2+ concentration is not uniformly distributed within the cytoplasm but is organized in subcellular microdomains with high and low concentrations of Ca2+ at different locations in the cell. Ca2+ ions are stored and released by intracellular organelles that change the concentration and distribution of Ca2+ ions. A major function of the rise in intracellular Ca2+ is the change of the genetic expression pattern of the cell via the activation of Ca2+-responsive transcription factors. It has been proposed that Ca2+-responsive transcription factors are differently affected by a rise in cytoplasmic versus nuclear Ca2+. Moreover, it has been suggested that the mode of entry determines whether an influx of Ca2+ leads to the stimulation of gene transcription. A rise in cytoplasmic Ca2+ induces an intracellular signaling cascade, involving the activation of the Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein phosphatase calcineurin and various protein kinases (protein kinase C, extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase, Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinases). In this review article, we discuss the concept of gene regulation via elevated Ca2+ concentration in the cytoplasm and the nucleus, the role of Ca2+ entry and the role of enzymes as signal transducers. We give particular emphasis to the regulation of gene transcription by calcineurin, linking protein dephosphorylation with Ca2+ signaling and gene expression

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