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  • Author or Editor: O. H. Petersen x
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A calcium signal is a sudden increase in the concentration of calcium ions (Ca2+) in the cytosol. Such signals are crucial for the control of many important functions of the body. In the brain, for example, Ca2+ signals are responsible for memory, in muscle cells they switch on contraction, whereas in gland cells they are responsible for regulation of secretion. In many cases Ca2+ signals can control several different processes in the same cell. As an example, we shall deal with one particular cell type, namely the pancreatic acinar cell, which is responsible for the secretion of the enzymes essential for the digestion of food. In this cell, Ca2+ signals do not only control the normal enzyme secretion, but also regulate growth (cell division) and programmed cell death (apoptosis). Until recently, it was a mystery how the same type of signal could regulate such diverse functions in one and the same cell. Recent technical advances have shown that different patterns of Ca2+ signals can be created, in space and time, which allow specific cellular responses to be elicited.

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