Physiological Reviews

Measurement of Intracellular Calcium

Akiyuki Takahashi, Patricia Camacho, James D. Lechleiter, Brian Herman


To a certain extent, all cellular, physiological, and pathological phenomena that occur in cells are accompanied by ionic changes. The development of techniques allowing the measurement of such ion activities has contributed substantially to our understanding of normal and abnormal cellular function. Digital video microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy, and more recently multiphoton microscopy have allowed the precise spatial analysis of intracellular ion activity at the subcellular level in addition to measurement of its concentration. It is well known that Ca2+ regulates numerous physiological cellular phenomena as a second messenger as well as triggering pathological events such as cell injury and death. A number of methods have been developed to measure intracellular Ca2+. In this review, we summarize the advantages and pitfalls of a variety of Ca2+ indicators used in both optical and nonoptical techniques employed for measuring intracellular Ca2+ concentration.


  • Address for reprint requests and other correspondence: B. Herman, Dept. of Cellular and Structural Biology, mail code 7762, Univ. of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 7703 Floyd Curl Dr., San Antonio, TX 78229-3900 (E-mail: hermanb{at}

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