Increasing complexity and versatility: how the calcium signaling toolkit was shaped during plant land colonization

Cell Calcium. 2015 Mar;57(3):231-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ceca.2014.10.013. Epub 2014 Nov 4.


Calcium serves as a versatile messenger in adaptation reactions and developmental processes in plants and animals. Eukaryotic cells generate cytosolic Ca(2+) signals via Ca(2+) conducting channels. Ca(2+) signals are represented in form of stimulus-specific spatially and temporally defined Ca(2+) signatures. These Ca(2+) signatures are detected, decoded and transmitted to downstream responses by an elaborate toolkit of Ca(2+) binding proteins that function as Ca(2+) sensors. In this article, we examine the distribution and evolution of Ca(2+)-conducting channels and Ca(2+) decoding proteins in the plant lineage. To this end, we have in addition to previously studied genomes of plant species, identified and analyzed the Ca(2+)-signaling components from species that hold key evolutionary positions like the filamentous terrestrial algae Klebsormidium flaccidum and Amborella trichopoda, the single living representative of the sister lineage to all other extant flowering plants. Plants and animals exhibit substantial differences in their complements of Ca(2+) channels and Ca(2+) binding proteins. Within the plant lineage, remarkable differences in the evolution of complexity between different families of Ca(2+) signaling proteins are observable. Using the CBL/CIPK Ca(2+) sensor/kinase signaling network as model, we attempt to link evolutionary tendencies to functional predictions. Our analyses, for example, suggest Ca(2+) dependent regulation of Na(+) homeostasis as an evolutionary most ancient function of this signaling network. Overall, gene families of Ca(2+) signaling proteins have significantly increased in their size during plant evolution reaching an extraordinary complexity in angiosperms.

Keywords: CBLs; CIPKs; Calcium; Channels; Evolution; Plant.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Phylogeny
  • Plants / chemistry
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary