The renaissance of Ca2+-binding proteins in the nervous system: secretagogin takes center stage

Cell Signal. 2012 Feb;24(2):378-387. doi: 10.1016/j.cellsig.2011.09.028. Epub 2011 Oct 1.


Effective control of the Ca(2+) homeostasis in any living cell is paramount to coordinate some of the most essential physiological processes, including cell division, morphological differentiation, and intercellular communication. Therefore, effective homeostatic mechanisms have evolved to maintain the intracellular Ca(2+) concentration at physiologically adequate levels, as well as to regulate the spatial and temporal dynamics of Ca(2+)signaling at subcellular resolution. Members of the superfamily of EF-hand Ca(2+)-binding proteins are effective to either attenuate intracellular Ca(2+) transients as stochiometric buffers or function as Ca(2+) sensors whose conformational change upon Ca(2+) binding triggers protein-protein interactions, leading to cell state-specific intracellular signaling events. In the central nervous system, some EF-hand Ca(2+)-binding proteins are restricted to specific subtypes of neurons or glia, with their expression under developmental and/or metabolic control. Therefore, Ca(2+)-binding proteins are widely used as molecular markers of cell identity whilst also predicting excitability and neurotransmitter release profiles in response to electrical stimuli. Secretagogin is a novel member of the group of EF-hand Ca(2+)-binding proteins whose expression precedes that of many other Ca(2+)-binding proteins in postmitotic, migratory neurons in the embryonic nervous system. Secretagogin expression persists during neurogenesis in the adult brain, yet becomes confined to regionalized subsets of differentiated neurons in the adult central and peripheral nervous and neuroendocrine systems. Secretagogin may be implicated in the control of neuronal turnover and differentiation, particularly since it is re-expressed in neoplastic brain and endocrine tumors and modulates cell proliferation in vitro. Alternatively, and since secretagogin can bind to SNARE proteins, it might function as a Ca(2+) sensor/coincidence detector modulating vesicular exocytosis of neurotransmitters, neuropeptides or hormones. Thus, secretagogin emerges as a functionally multifaceted Ca(2+)-binding protein whose molecular characterization can unravel a new and fundamental dimension of Ca(2+)signaling under physiological and disease conditions in the nervous system and beyond.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / embryology
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Exocytosis / physiology
  • Fetus
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / chemistry
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / genetics
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurosecretory Systems / embryology
  • Neurosecretory Systems / metabolism*
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs / physiology
  • Protein Isoforms / chemistry
  • Protein Isoforms / genetics
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism*
  • Secretagogins
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Transport Vesicles / metabolism


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Secretagogins
  • Mixed Function Oxygenases
  • NECAB1 protein, human
  • Calcium