Calcium signaling in neurodegeneration

Mol Neurodegener. 2009 May 6;4:20. doi: 10.1186/1750-1326-4-20.


Calcium is a key signaling ion involved in many different intracellular and extracellular processes ranging from synaptic activity to cell-cell communication and adhesion. The exact definition at the molecular level of the versatility of this ion has made overwhelming progress in the past several years and has been extensively reviewed. In the brain, calcium is fundamental in the control of synaptic activity and memory formation, a process that leads to the activation of specific calcium-dependent signal transduction pathways and implicates key protein effectors, such as CaMKs, MAPK/ERKs, and CREB. Properly controlled homeostasis of calcium signaling not only supports normal brain physiology but also maintains neuronal integrity and long-term cell survival. Emerging knowledge indicates that calcium homeostasis is not only critical for cell physiology and health, but also, when deregulated, can lead to neurodegeneration via complex and diverse mechanisms involved in selective neuronal impairments and death. The identification of several modulators of calcium homeostasis, such as presenilins and CALHM1, as potential factors involved in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, provides strong support for a role of calcium in neurodegeneration. These observations represent an important step towards understanding the molecular mechanisms of calcium signaling disturbances observed in different brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases.