Calcium signaling in mammalian egg activation and embryo development: the influence of subcellular localization

Mol Reprod Dev. 2012 Nov;79(11):742-56. doi: 10.1002/mrd.22078. Epub 2012 Sep 28.


Calcium (Ca(2+) ) signals drive the fundamental events surrounding fertilization and the activation of development in all species examined to date. Initial studies of Ca(2+) signaling at fertilization in marine animals were tightly linked to new discoveries of bioluminescent proteins and their use as fluorescent Ca(2+) sensors. Since that time, there has been rapid progress in our understanding of the key functions for Ca(2+) in many cell types and of the impact of cellular localization on Ca(2+) signaling pathways. In this review, which focuses on mammalian egg activation, we consider how Ca(2+) is regulated and stored at different stages of oocyte development and examine the functions of molecules that serve as both regulators of Ca(2+) release and effectors of Ca(2+) signals. We then summarize studies exploring how Ca(2+) directs downstream effectors mediating both egg activation and later signaling events required for successful preimplantation embryo development. Throughout this review, we focus attention on how localization of Ca(2+) signals influences downstream signaling events, and attempt to highlight gaps in our knowledge that are ripe for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling*
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fertilization / physiology
  • Mammals / embryology*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oocytes / growth & development
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Ovum / growth & development
  • Ovum / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Stromal Interaction Molecule 2


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Stim2 protein, mouse
  • Stromal Interaction Molecule 2