Calcium plays a variety of roles in signaling between and within a host of cell types and processes, such as nerve signals, cardiac heart muscle contraction, apoptosis and neoplastic conditions.
Signaling Within the Nervous System Using Calcium
Within nerve cells, calcium acts both as a charge carrier and as a second messenger within the cell. Thus it helps with the migration of nerve cells, the dynamics of the growth cone, development of branching dendrites as well as of synaptic connections between neurons. This ion is thus capable of modifying many cellular processes either separately, or as part of several parallel pathways.
Calcium Signaling in Cardiac Myocytes
Calcium ions act as the crucial electromechanical connecting signal between the electrical signals reaching every part of the heart muscle and the contractile mechanism, which causes the cardiac myocytes to contract and enables the heart to pump blood. It also regulates many other functional activities of the muscle cells of the heart, including transcriptional regulation.
Calcium Signaling and Apoptosis
Apoptosis is a mechanism of cell death under very strictly regulated processes. It is an extremely necessary part of the development and homeostasis of tissues in the body. It is well known that very small alterations in the calcium concentration both modify apoptosis and initiate it.
Calcium Signaling in Cancer
When there is loss of control of calcium levels in the body, severe imbalances may result in the functioning of the body, leading to neoplastic changes. In fact, the loss of calcium homeostasis has been found to accompany every cancer hallmark individually.
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