The ancient roots of calcium signalling evolutionary tree.

Helmut Plattner, Alexei Verkhratsky

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Molecular cascades of calcium homeostasis and signalling (Ca(2+) pumps, channels, cation exchangers, and Ca(2+)-binding proteins) emerged in prokaryotes and further developed at the unicellular stage of eukaryote evolution. With progressive evolution, mechanisms of signalling became diversified reflecting multiplication and specialisation of Ca(2+)-regulated cellular activities. Recent genomic analysis of organisms from different systematic positions, combined with proteomic and functional probing invigorated expansion in our understanding of the evolution of Ca(2+) signalling. Particularly impressive is the consistent role of Ca(2+)-ATPases/pumps, calmodulin and calcineurin from very early stages of eukaryotic evolution, although with interspecies differences. Deviations in Ca(2+) handling and signalling are observed between vertebrates and flowering plants as well as between protists at the basis of the two systematic categories, Unikonta (for example choanoflagellates) and Bikonta (for example ciliates). Only the B-subunit of calcineurin, for instance, is maintained to regulate highly diversified protein kinases for stress defence in flowering plants, whereas the complete dimeric protein, in vertebrates up to humans, regulates gene transcription, immune-defence and plasticity of the brain. Calmodulin is similarly maintained throughout evolution, but in plants a calmoldulin-like domain is integrated into protein kinase molecules. The eukaryotic cell has inherited and invented many mechanisms to exploit the advantages of signalling by Ca(2+), and there is considerable overall similarity in basic processes of Ca(2+) regulation and signalling during evolution, although some details may vary.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCell calcium
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


    • ATPase
    • Antiporter
    • Ca(2+)
    • Ca(2+)-ATPase
    • Calcium
    • Channel
    • Evolution


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