Biochimica et biophysica acta

Aequorin-based genetic approaches to visualize Ca2+ signaling in developing animal systems.

PMID 22198462


In recent years, as our understanding of the various roles played by Ca2+ signaling in development and differentiation has expanded, the challenge of imaging Ca2+ dynamics within living cells, tissues, and whole animal systems has been extended to include specific signaling activity in organelles and non-membrane bound sub-cellular domains. In this review we outline how recent advances in genetics and molecular biology have contributed to improving and developing current bioluminescence-based Ca2+ imaging techniques. Reporters can now be targeted to specific cell types, or indeed organelles or domains within a particular cell. These advances have contributed to our current understanding of the specificity and heterogeneity of developmental Ca2+ signaling. The improvement in the spatial resolution that results from specifically targeting a Ca2+ reporter has helped to reveal how a ubiquitous signaling messenger like Ca2+ can regulate coincidental but different signaling events within an individual cell; a Ca2+ signaling paradox that until now has been hard to explain. Techniques used to target specific reporters via genetic means will have applications beyond those of the Ca2+ signaling field, and these will, therefore, make a significant contribution in extending our understanding of the signaling networks that regulate animal development. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Biochemical, biophysical and genetic approaches to intracellular calcium signalling.