Subcellular calcium measurements in mammalian cells using jellyfish photoprotein aequorin-based probes

Nat Protoc. 2013 Nov;8(11):2105-18. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2013.127. Epub 2013 Oct 10.


The jellyfish Aequorea victoria produces a 22-kDa protein named aequorin that has had an important role in the study of calcium (Ca(2+)) signaling. Aequorin reacts with Ca(2+) via oxidation of the prosthetic group, coelenterazine, which results in emission of light. This signal can be detected by using a special luminescence reader (called aequorinometer) or luminescence plate readers. Here we describe the main characteristics of aequorin as a Ca(2+) probe and how to measure Ca(2+) in different intracellular compartments of animal cells (cytosol, different mitochondrial districts, nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum (ER), Golgi apparatus, peroxisomes and subplasma-membrane cytosol), ranging from single-well analyses to high-throughput screening by transfecting animal cells using DNA vectors carrying recombinant aequorin chimeras. The use of aequorin mutants and modified versions of coelenterazione increases the range of calcium concentrations that can be recorded. Cell culture and transfection takes ∼3 d. An experiment including signal calibration and the subsequent analyses will take ∼1 d.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aequorin / analysis*
  • Aequorin / chemistry
  • Animals
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Imidazoles / chemistry
  • Luminescent Measurements / methods*
  • Luminescent Proteins / analysis*
  • Mammals / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Pyrazines / chemistry
  • Scyphozoa / metabolism
  • Transfection / methods


  • Imidazoles
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Pyrazines
  • coelenterazine
  • Aequorin
  • Calcium