Calcium signalling in glial cells

Trends Neurosci. 1996 Aug;19(8):346-52. doi: 10.1016/0166-2236(96)10048-5.


Glial cells respond to a variety of external stimuli such as neurotransmitters, hormones or even mechanical stress by generating complex changes in the cytoplasmic Ca2+ concentration. This Ca2+ signal is controlled by an interplay of different mechanisms including plasmalemmal and intracellular Ca2+ channels, Ca2+ transporters and cytoplasmic Ca2+ buffers. In astrocytes, the Ca2+ signal can travel as waves within the syncytium spreading via gap junctions which might be regarded as a possible means for interglial communication. Ca2+ signalling is also an important medium for neurone-glia interaction: neuronal activity can trigger Ca2+ signals in glial cells and, in turn, there is evidence that glial Ca2+ signals can elicit responses in neurones. While glial cells are not equipped with the proper channels to generate action potentials, Ca2+ signalling could be the instrument by which these cells integrate and propagate signals in the CNS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter
  • Calcium