The calcium-based intracellular signalling system is used ubiquitously to couple extracellular stimuli to their characteristic intracellular responses. It is becoming clear from genomic and physiological investigations that while the basic elements in the toolkit are common between plants and animals, evolution has acted in such a way that, in plants, some components have diversified with respect to their animal counterparts, while others have either been lost or have never evolved in the plant lineages. In comparison with animals, in plants there appears to have been a loss of diversity in calcium-influx mechanisms at the plasma membrane. However, the evolution of the calcium-storing vacuole may provide plants with additional possibilities for regulating calcium influx into the cytosol. Among the proteins that are involved in sensing and responding to increases in calcium, plants possess specific decoder proteins that are absent from the animal lineage. In seeking to understand the selection pressures that shaped the plant calcium-signalling toolkit, we consider the evolution of fast electrical signalling. We also note that, in contrast to animals, plants apparently do not make extensive use of cyclic-nucleotide-based signalling. It is possible that reliance on a single intracellular second-messenger-based system, coupled with the requirement to adapt to changing environmental conditions, has helped to define the diversity of components found in the extant plant calcium-signalling toolkit.
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