Intercellular Ca(2+) waves: mechanisms and function

Physiol Rev. 2012 Jul;92(3):1359-92. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00029.2011.


Intercellular calcium (Ca(2+)) waves (ICWs) represent the propagation of increases in intracellular Ca(2+) through a syncytium of cells and appear to be a fundamental mechanism for coordinating multicellular responses. ICWs occur in a wide diversity of cells and have been extensively studied in vitro. More recent studies focus on ICWs in vivo. ICWs are triggered by a variety of stimuli and involve the release of Ca(2+) from internal stores. The propagation of ICWs predominately involves cell communication with internal messengers moving via gap junctions or extracellular messengers mediating paracrine signaling. ICWs appear to be important in both normal physiology as well as pathophysiological processes in a variety of organs and tissues including brain, liver, retina, cochlea, and vascular tissue. We review here the mechanisms of initiation and propagation of ICWs, the key intra- and extracellular messengers (inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate and ATP) mediating ICWs, and the proposed physiological functions of ICWs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / drug effects
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling* / drug effects
  • Cell Communication* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Paracrine Communication
  • Second Messenger Systems


  • Calcium Channels
  • Calcium