Regulation of gene expression by Ca2+ signals in neuronal cells

Eur J Pharmacol. 2002 Jul 5;447(2-3):131-40. doi: 10.1016/s0014-2999(02)01837-x.


Calcium ions are ubiquitous second messengers that control diverse cellular functions. The versatility of Ca(2+) arises both from the ability of cells to employ a range of mechanisms to generate stimulus-induced Ca(2+) signals with defined characteristics and the existence of a large repertoire of Ca(2+) receptive proteins that mediate the effects of Ca(2+). In neurons, the regulation of gene expression by electrical activity-induced increases in Ca(2+) is critical for the long-term maintenance of neuronal adaptive responses. Different patterns of synaptic activity are able to generate Ca(2+) signals varying in their amplitude, temporal profile, spatial properties and source or site of entry. The information embedded in Ca(2+) signals is decoded by Ca(2+)-responsive transcriptional regulators, including protein kinases, phosphatases and transcription factors, with differing Ca(2+) sensitivities, kinetics of activation and deactivation, and subcellular localisation. The coordinated control of many transcriptional regulators by Ca(2+) signals determines the qualitative and quantitative nature of the genomic response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / physiology
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • NFATC Transcription Factors
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nuclear Proteins*
  • Response Elements / physiology
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • NFATC Transcription Factors
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Calcium