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Volume 1 (2001), Pages 919-925
Review Article

Extracellular and Intracellular Regulation of Calcium Homeostasis

Department of BioStructure and Function, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, CT 06030-6125, USA

Copyright © 2001 Felix Bronner.


An organism with an internal skeleton must accumulate calcium while maintaining body fluids at a well-regulated, constant calcium concentration. Neither calcium absorption nor excretion plays a significant regulatory role. Instead, isoionic calcium uptake and release by bone surfaces causes plasma calcium to be well regulated. Very rapid shape changes of osteoblasts and osteoclasts, in response to hormonal signals, modulate the available bone surfaces so that plasma calcium can increase when more low-affinity bone calcium binding sites are made available and can decrease when more high-affinity binding sites are exposed. The intracellular free calcium concentration of body cells is also regulated, but because cells are bathed by fluids with vastly higher calcium concentration, their major regulatory mechanism is severe entry restriction. All cells have a calcium-sensing receptor that modulates cell function via its response to extracellular calcium. In duodenal cells, the apical calcium entry structure functions as both transporter and a vitamin D–responsive channel. The channel upregulates calcium entry, with intracellular transport mediated by the mobile, vitamin D–dependent buffer, calbindin D9K, which binds and transports more than 90% of the transcellular calcium flux. Fixed intracellular calcium binding sites can, like the body's skeleton, take up and release calcium that has entered the cell, but the principal regulatory tool of the cell is restricted entry.