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Intracellular Calcium-Sensing Proteins: Intracellular signaling peptides and proteins that bind to Calcium. They undergo allosteric changes when bound to Calcium that affects their interaction with other signal-transducing molecules. They differ from Calcium-sensing receptors which sense extracellular calcium levels.

Calcium Imaging in Neurons

JoVE 5203

Calcium ions play an integral role in neuron function: They act as intracellular signals that can elicit responses such as altered gene expression and neurotransmitter release from synaptic vesicles. Within the cell, calcium concentration is highly dynamic due to the presence of pumps that selectively transport these ions in response to a variety of signals. Calcium…


Muscle Contraction

JoVE 10869


In skeletal muscles, acetylcholine is released by nerve terminals at the motor end plate—the point of synaptic communication between motor neurons and muscle fibers. Binding of acetylcholine to its receptors on the sarcolemma allows entry of sodium ions into the cell and triggers an action potential in the muscle cell. Thus, electrical signals from the brain are transmitted to the muscle. Subsequently, the enzyme acetylcholinesterase breaks down acetylcholine to prevent excessive muscle stimulation.   Individuals with the disorder myasthenia gravis, develop antibodies against the acetylcholine receptor. This prevents transmission of electrical signals between the motor neuron and muscle fiber and impairs skeletal muscle contraction. Myasthenia gravis is treated using drugs that inhibit acetylcholinesterase (allowing more opportunities for the neurotransmitter to stimulate the remaining receptors) or suppress the immune system (preventing the formation of antibodies). Unlike skeletal muscles, smooth muscles present in the walls of internal organs are innervated by the autonomic nervous system and undergo involuntary contractions. Contraction is mediated by the interaction between two filament proteins—actin and myosin. The interaction of actin and myosin is closely linked to intracellular calcium concentrat

 Core: Biology

What are Second Messengers?

JoVE 10720

Because many receptor binding ligands are hydrophilic, they do not cross the cell membrane and thus their message must be relayed to a second messenger on the inside. There are several second messenger pathways, each with their own way of relaying information. G-protein coupled receptors can activate both phosphoinositol and cyclic AMP (cAMP) second messenger pathways. The phosphoinositol path is active when the receptor induces phospholipase C to hydrolyze the phospholipid, phosphatidylinositol biphosphate (PIP2), into two second messengers: diacylglycerol (DAG) and inositol triphosphate (IP3). DAG remains near the cell membrane and activates protein kinase C (PKC). IP3 translocates to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and becomes the opening ligand for calcium ion channels on the ER membrane- releasing calcium into the cytoplasm. In the cAMP pathway, the activated receptor induces adenylate cyclase to produce multiple copies of cAMP from nearby adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules. cAMP can stimulate protein kinase A (PKA), open calcium ion channels, and initiate the enzyme- Exchange-protein activated by cAMP (Epac). Similar to cAMP, is cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP). cGMP is synthesized from guanosine triphosphate (GTP) molecules when guanylyl cyclase is activated. As a second messenger, cGMP induces protein kinase G

 Core: Biology

Ion Channels

JoVE 10722

Ion channels maintain the membrane potential of a cell. For most cells, especially excitable ones, the inside has a more negative charge than the outside of the cell, due to a greater number of negative ions than positive ions. For excitable cells, like firing neurons, contracting muscle cells, or sensory touch cells, the membrane potential must be able to change rapidly moving from a negative membrane potential to one that is more positive. To achieve this, cells rely on two types of ion channels: ligand-gated and voltage-gated. Ligand-gated ion channels, also called ionotropic receptors, are transmembrane proteins that form a channel but which also have a binding site. When a ligand binds to the surface, it opens the ion channel. Common ionotropic receptors include the NMDA, kainate, and AMPA glutamate receptors and the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. While the majority of ionotropic receptors are activated by extracellular binding of neurotransmitters such as glutamate or acetylcholine, a few can be intracellularly activated by ions themselves. When a ligand, like glutamate or acetylcholine, binds to its receptor it allows the influx of sodium (Na+) and calcium (Ca2+) ions into the cells. The positive ions, or cations, follow down their electrochemical gradient, moving from the more positive extracellular surface to the less p

 Core: Biology

Cell Structure- Concept

JoVE 10587


Cells represent the most basic biological units of all organisms, whether it be simple, single-celled organisms like bacteria, or large, multicellular organisms like elephants and giant redwood trees. In the mid 19th century, the Cell Theory was proposed to define a cell, which states:

Every living organism is made up of one or more cells.
The cells…

 Lab Bio

The Resting Membrane Potential

JoVE 10845

The relative difference in electrical charge, or voltage, between the inside and the outside of a cell membrane, is called the membrane potential. It is generated by differences in permeability of the membrane to various ions and the concentrations of these ions across the membrane.

The membrane potential of a cell can be measured by inserting a microelectrode into a cell and comparing the charge to a reference electrode in the extracellular fluid. The membrane potential of a neuron at rest—that is, a neuron not currently receiving or sending messages—is negative, typically around -70 millivolts (mV). This is called the resting membrane potential. The negative value indicates that the inside of the membrane is relatively more negative than the outside—it is polarized. The resting potential results from two major factors: selective permeability of the membrane, and differences in ion concentration inside the cell compared to outside. Cell membranes are selectively permeable because most ions and molecules cannot cross the lipid bilayer without help, often from ion channel proteins that span the membrane. This is because the charged ions cannot diffuse through the uncharged hydrophobic interior of membranes. The most common intra- and extracellular ions found in the nervous tissue are potassium (K+), sodium (Na+…

 Core: Biology

Cell-surface Signaling

JoVE 10877

Hormones—or any molecule that binds to a receptor, known as a ligand—that are lipid-insoluble (water-soluble) are not able to diffuse across the cell membrane. In order to be able to affect a cell without entering it, these hormones bind to receptors on the cell membrane. When a first messenger, a hormone, binds to a receptor, a signal cascade is set off, causing second messengers, proteins inside the cell, to become activated, resulting in downstream effects. Cell membrane receptors have three portions: an external ligand-binding domain, a transmembrane domain, and an internal domain. There are three categories of cell membrane receptors based on the consistency of the structure and function of these domains within each category. One category is ligand-gated ion channels which, when bound to a ligand, undergo a conformational change, allowing ions through a channel formed by the transmembrane portion of the receptor. A second category is G-proteins-coupled receptors which have a distinct structure with seven transmembrane domains. Binding of the external domain to a ligand causes the alpha subunit, one of three subunits attached to the internal portion of the receptor, to disassociate from the receptor and create a cellular response. The third category of receptors, the enzyme-linked receptor—also called catalytic receptor

 Core: Biology

An Introduction to Endocytosis and Exocytosis

JoVE 5646

Cells can take in substances from the extracellular environment by endocytosis and actively release molecules into it by exocytosis. Such processes involve lipid membrane-bound sacs called vesicles. Knowledge of the molecular architecture and mechanisms of both is key to understanding normal cell physiology, as well as the disease states that arise when they become…

 Cell Biology

An Introduction to Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

JoVE 5213

Cellular and molecular neuroscience is one of the newest and fastest growing subdisciplines in neuroscience. By investigating the influences of genes, signaling molecules, and cellular morphology, researchers in this field uncover crucial insights into normal brain development and function, as well as the root causes of many pathological conditions.

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