Role of calcium and other trace elements in the gastrointestinal physiology

World J Gastroenterol. 2006 May 28;12(20):3229-36. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v12.i20.3229.


Calcium is an essential ion in both marine and terrestrial organisms, where it plays a crucial role in processes ranging from the formation and maintenance of the skeleton to the regulation of neuronal function. The Ca(2+) balance is maintained by three organ systems, including the gastrointestinal tract, bone and kidney. Since first being cloned in 1993 the Ca(2+)-sensing receptor has been expressed along the entire gastrointestinal tract, until now the exact function is only partly elucidated. As of this date it still remains to be determined if the Ca(2+)-sensing receptor is involved in calcium handling by the gastrointestinal tract. However, there are few studies showing physiological effects of the Ca(2+)-sensing receptor on gastric acid secretion and fluid transport in the colon. In addition, polyamines and amino acids have been shown to activate the Ca(2+)-sensing receptor and also act as allosteric modifiers to signal nutrient availability to intestinal epithelial cells. Activation of the colonic Ca(2+)-sensing receptor can abrogate cyclic nucleotide-mediated fluid secretion suggesting a role of the receptor in modifying secretory diarrheas like cholera. For many cell types changes in extracellular Ca(2+) concentration can switch the cellular behavior from proliferation to terminal differentiation or quiescence. As cancer remains predominantly a disease of disordered balance between proliferation, termination and apoptosis, disruption in the function of the Ca(2+)-sensing receptor may contribute to the progression of neoplastic disease. Loss of the growth suppressing effects of elevated extracellular Ca(2+) have been demonstrated in colon carcinoma, and have been correlated with changes in the level of CaSR expression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Colonic Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Intestines / chemistry
  • Intestines / physiology
  • Receptors, Calcium-Sensing / physiology
  • Stomach / chemistry
  • Stomach / physiology*
  • Trace Elements*


  • Receptors, Calcium-Sensing
  • Trace Elements
  • Calcium