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Calcium (Ca2+) release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels are a major route for Ca2+ entry in eukaryotic cells. These channels are store operated, opening when the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is depleted of Ca2+, and are composed of the ER Ca2+ sensor protein STIM and the pore-forming plasma membrane subunit Orai. Recent years have heralded major strides in our understanding of the structure, gating, and function of the channels. Loss-of-function and gain-of-function mutants combined with RNAi knockdown strategies have revealed important roles for the channel in numerous human diseases, making the channel a clinically relevant target. Drugs targeting the channels generally lack specificity or exhibit poor efficacy in animal models. However, the landscape is changing, and CRAC channel blockers are now entering clinical trials. Here, we describe the key molecular and biological features of CRAC channels, consider various diseases associated with aberrant channel activity, and discuss targeting of the channels from a therapeutic perspective.

Original publication




Journal article


Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol

Publication Date





629 - 654


Orai, STIM, calcium channel, calcium signaling, store operated