Breaking the code: Ca2+ sensors in plant signalling

Biochem J. 2009 Dec 14;425(1):27-40. doi: 10.1042/BJ20091147.


Ca2+ ions play a vital role as second messengers in plant cells during various developmental processes and in response to environmental stimuli. Plants have evolved a diversity of unique proteins that bind Ca2+ using the evolutionarily conserved EF-hand motif. The currently held hypothesis is that these proteins function as Ca2+ sensors by undergoing conformational changes in response to Ca2+-binding that facilitate their regulation of target proteins and thereby co-ordinate various signalling pathways. The three main classes of these EF-hand Ca2+sensors in plants are CaMs [calmodulins; including CMLs (CaM-like proteins)], CDPKs (calcium-dependent protein kinases) and CBLs (calcineurin B-like proteins). In the plant species examined to date, each of these classes is represented by a large family of proteins, most of which have not been characterized biochemically and whose physiological roles remain unclear. In the present review, we discuss recent advances in research on CaMs and CMLs, CDPKs and CBLs, and we attempt to integrate the current knowledge on the different sensor classes into common physiological themes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Calmodulin / genetics
  • Calmodulin / metabolism
  • EF Hand Motifs / genetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plants / genetics
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Calmodulin
  • Plant Proteins
  • Protein Kinases
  • calcium-dependent protein kinase
  • Calcium