Glial calcium: homeostasis and signaling function

Physiol Rev. 1998 Jan;78(1):99-141. doi: 10.1152/physrev.1998.78.1.99.


Glial cells respond to various electrical, mechanical, and chemical stimuli, including neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, and hormones, with an increase in intracellular Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i). The increases exhibit a variety of temporal and spatial patterns. These [Ca2+]i responses result from the coordinated activity of a number of molecular cascades responsible for Ca2+ movement into or out of the cytoplasm either by way of the extracellular space or intracellular stores. Transplasmalemmal Ca2+ movements may be controlled by several types of voltage- and ligand-gated Ca(2+)-permeable channels as well as Ca2+ pumps and a Na+/Ca2+ exchanger. In addition, glial cells express various metabotropic receptors coupled to intracellular Ca2+ stores through the intracellular messenger inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate. The interplay of different molecular cascades enables the development of agonist-specific patterns of Ca2+ responses. Such agonist specificity may provide a means for intracellular and intercellular information coding. Calcium signals can traverse gap junctions between glial cells without decrement. These waves can serve as a substrate for integration of glial activity. By controlling gap junction conductance, Ca2+ waves may define the limits of functional glial networks. Neuronal activity can trigger [Ca2+]i signals in apposed glial cells, and moreover, there is some evidence that glial [Ca2+]i waves can affect neurons. Glial Ca2+ signaling can be regarded as a form of glial excitability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / physiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Neuroglia / drug effects
  • Neuroglia / physiology*
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / pharmacology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology*
  • Organelles / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Calcium Channels
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Calcium