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Keywords:

  • aequorin;
  • Ca2+ signalling;
  • calcium microdomains;
  • chromaffin cells;
  • cytoplasmic organelles;
  • endoplasmic reticulum;
  • mitochondria;
  • nuclear envelope

Abstract

The cytosolic Ca2+ signals that trigger cell responses occur either as localized domains of high Ca2+ concentration or as propagating Ca2+ waves. Cytoplasmic organelles, taking up or releasing Ca2+ to the cytosol, shape the cytosolic signals. On the other hand, Ca2+ concentration inside organelles is also important in physiology and pathophysiology. Comprehensive study of these matters requires to measure [Ca2+] inside organelles and at the relevant cytosolic domains. Aequorins, the best-known chemiluminescent Ca2+ probes, are excellent for this end as they do not require stressing illumination, have a large dynamic range and a sharp Ca2+-dependence, can be targeted to the appropriate location and engineered to have the proper Ca2+ affinity. Using this methodology, we have evidenced the existence in chromaffin cells of functional units composed by three closely interrelated elements: (1) plasma membrane Ca2+ channels, (2) subplasmalemmal endoplasmic reticulum and (3) mitochondria. These Ca2+-signalling triads optimize Ca2+ microdomains for secretion and prevent propagation of the Ca2+ wave towards the cell core. Oscillatory cytosolic Ca2+ signals originate also oscillations of mitochondrial Ca2+ in several cell types. The nuclear envelope slows down the propagation of the Ca2+ wave to the nucleus and filters high frequencies. On the other hand, inositol-trisphosphate may produce direct release of Ca2+ to the nucleoplasm in GH3 pituitary cells, thus providing mechanisms for selective nuclear signalling. Aequorins emitting at different wavelengths, prepared by fusion either with green or red fluorescent protein, permit simultaneous and independent monitorization of the Ca2+ signals in different subcellular domains within the same cell.