The dynamics of calmodulin signaling revealed using optical methods

Sally Ann Kim, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The Ca2+-binding protein calmodulin (CaM) is a key transducer of Ca2+ oscillations by virtue of its ability to bind Ca 2+ selectively and then interact specifically with a large number of downstream enzymes and proteins. It remains unclear whether Ca2+ -dependent signaling alone can activate the full range of Ca 2+/CaM regulated processes or whether other regulatory schemes in the cell exist that allow specific targeting of CaM to subsets of Ca 2+/CaM binding sites or regions of the cell. Here we investigate the possibility that alterations of the availability of CaM may serve as a potential cellular mechanism for regulating the activation of CaM-dependent targets. By utilizing sensitive optical techniques with high spatial and temporal resolution, we examine the intracellular dynamics of CaM signaling at a resolution previously unattainable. After optimizing and characterizing both the optical methods and fluorescently labeled probes for intracellular measurements, the diffusion of CaM in the cytoplasm of HEK293 cells was analyzed. It was discovered that the diffusion characteristics of CaM are similar to that of a comparably sized inert molecule. Independent manipulation of experimental parameters, including increases in total concentrations of CaM and intracellular Ca2+ levels, did not change the diffusion of CaM in the cytoplasm. However, changes in diffusion were seen when the concentration of Ca2+/CaM-binding targets was increased in conjunction with elevated Ca2+. This indicates that CaM is not normally limiting for the activation of Ca 2+/CaM-dependent enzymes in HEK293 cells but reveals that the ratio of CaM to CaM-dependent targets is a potential mechanism for changing CaM availability. Next we considered whether cellular compartmentalization may act to regulate concentrations of available Ca2+/CaM in hippocampal neurons. We discovered changes in diffusion parameters of CaM under elevated Ca2+ conditions in the soma, neurite and nucleus which suggest that either the composition of cytoplasm is different in these compartments and/or they are composed of unique families of CaM-binding proteins. Finally, we return to the HEK293 cell and for the first time directly show the intracellular binding of CaM and CaMKII, an important target for CaM critical for neuronal function and plasticity. Furthermore, we analyzed the complex binding stoichiometry of this molecular interaction in the basal, activated and autophosphorylated states of CaMKII and determined the impact of this binding on CaM availability in the cell. Overall these results demonstrate that regulation of CaM availability is a viable cellular mechanism for regulating the output of CaM-dependent processes and that this process is tuned to the specific functional needs of a particular cell type and subcellular compartment.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Kim, Sally Ann, "The dynamics of calmodulin signaling revealed using optical methods" (2004). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3151539.