In polarized cells or cells with complex geometry, clustering of plasma membrane proteins is an effective mechanism for eliciting spatially restricted signals. However, protein clustering is also seen in cells with relatively simple topology, suggesting it fulfils a more fundamental role in cell biology than simply orchestrating compartmentalised responses. In a paper* recently published, DPAG researchers Krishna Samanta, Pulak Kar and Anant Parekh and Gary Mirams from Computer Science have compared the ability of clustered store-operated calcium channels with a similar number of dispersed calcium channels to activate transcription factors which subsequently increase nuclear gene expression. For identical levels of channel activity, they found that clustering was considerably more effective in stimulating gene expression. The new results identify a long-range signalling advantage to the tight evolutionary conservation of channel clustering and reveal that calcium channel aggregation increases strength, fidelity and reliability to the general process of excitation-transcription coupling.
* Ca2+ channel re-localization to plasma membrane microdomains strengthens activation of Ca2+-dependent nuclear gene expression, Cell Reports, volume 13, issue 2
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