Excitation-transcription coupling in smooth muscle

J Physiol. 2006 Jan 1;570(Pt 1):59-64. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2005.098426. Epub 2005 Oct 13.


Calcium (Ca2+) signals affect virtually every biological process, including both contraction and gene transcription in smooth muscle. Ca2+-regulated gene transcription is known to be important for both physiological and pathological responses in smooth muscle. The aim of this review is to discuss the current understanding of gene transcription regulated by excitation through Ca2+ signalling using a comparison of the two most characterized Ca2+-regulated transcription factors in smooth muscle, Ca2+-cyclic AMP response element binding protein (CREB) and nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT). Recent studies have shown commonalities and differences in the regulation of CREB and NFAT through both voltage- and non-voltage-gated Ca2+ channels that lead to expression of smooth muscle cell specific differentiation markers as well as markers of proliferation. New insights into the regulation of specific genes through companion elements on the promoters of Ca2+-regulated genes have led to new models for transcriptional regulation by Ca2+ that are defined both by the source and duration of the Ca2+ signal and the composition of enhancer elements found within the regulatory regions of specific genes. Thus the combination of signalling pathways elicited by particular Ca2+ signals affect selective promoter elements that are key to the ultimate pattern of gene transcription.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / genetics
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / genetics
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology*
  • Muscle, Smooth / metabolism*
  • NFATC Transcription Factors / genetics
  • NFATC Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology*


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