Physiological Reviews

Intercellular Ca2+ Waves: Mechanisms and Function

Luc Leybaert, Michael J. Sanderson


Intercellular calcium (Ca2+) waves (ICWs) represent the propagation of increases in intracellular Ca2+ through a syncytium of cells and appear to be a fundamental mechanism for coordinating multicellular responses. ICWs occur in a wide diversity of cells and have been extensively studied in vitro. More recent studies focus on ICWs in vivo. ICWs are triggered by a variety of stimuli and involve the release of Ca2+ from internal stores. The propagation of ICWs predominately involves cell communication with internal messengers moving via gap junctions or extracellular messengers mediating paracrine signaling. ICWs appear to be important in both normal physiology as well as pathophysiological processes in a variety of organs and tissues including brain, liver, retina, cochlea, and vascular tissue. We review here the mechanisms of initiation and propagation of ICWs, the key intra- and extracellular messengers (inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate and ATP) mediating ICWs, and the proposed physiological functions of ICWs.

View Full Text