Calcium gradients underlying cell migration

Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2012 Apr;24(2):254-61. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Dec 21.


The calcium ion is the simplest and most versatile second messenger in biology. Harboring a myriad of calcium effector proteins, migrating cells display an exquisite multiscaled and multilayered architecture of intracellular calcium dynamics. In motile fibroblasts, for instance, there are transient calcium microdomains ('calcium flickers') of ~5 μm in diameter and 10-2000 ms in duration, a rising flicker activity gradient along the rear-to-front axis, and a shallow background calcium concentration gradient in the opposite direction. When subjected to external gradients of guidance cues, local flicker gradients are created de novo in the leading edge, which steer cells to turn in new directions as defined by the asymmetry of the flicker activity, apparently by a stochastic decision-making mechanism. These recent findings provide a glimpse into how spatiotemporally coordinated calcium gradients orchestrate cellular behavior as complex as directional movement.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Humans


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Calcium