Neuronal calcium sparks and intracellular calcium 'noise'

N. Melamed-Book, S. G. Kachalsky, I. Kaiserman, R. Rahamimoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Intracellular calcium ions are involved in many forms of cellular function. To accommodate so many control functions, a complex spatiotemporal organization of calcium signaling has developed. In both excitable and nonexcitable cells, calcium signaling was found to fluctuate. Sudden localized increases in the intracellular calcium concentration - or calcium sparks - were found in heart, striated and smooth muscle, Xenopus Laevis oocytes, and HeLa and P12 cells. In the nervous system, intracellular calcium ions were found important in key processes such as transmitter release, repetitive firing, and gene expression. Hence, we examined whether calcium sparks also exist in neurons. Using confocal laser-scanning microscopy and fluorescent probes, we found that calcium sparks exist in two types of neuronal preparations: the presynaptic boutons of the lizard neuromuscular junction and rat hippocampal neurons in cell culture. Control experiments exclude the possibility that these calcium sparks originate from instrumental or biological artifacts. Calcium sparks seem to be just the tip of the iceberg of a more general phenomenon of intracellular calcium 'noise.' We speculate that calcium sparks and calcium noise may be of key importance in calcium signaling in the nervous system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15217-15221
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number26
StatePublished - 21 Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


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