|Resumen: ||The pívotal role of íntracellular free [Ca2+] fluctuatíons in the control of cellular functíons such as contraction and secretíon, íncludíng the release of neurotransmítters, was recognized many decades ago (see Rubín, 1982). More recently, the list of cellular functíons tríggered or modulated by the levels of Ca2+¡ has grown enormously. Addítional functíons regulated by [Ca2+)¡ include neuronal excítabílity, synaptic plastícíty, gene ex pressíon, cellular metabolísm, cell dívísíon and dífferentíatíon, and programmed cell dead (Míller, 1991; Clapham, 1995). Parallelíng the growth in this líst of Ca2+-controlled func tíons, a multíplicity of cellular mechanísms aimed at maintaining resting free [Ca2+)¡ in the range of l 00 nM for most cells has been described, allowing increases in Ca2+¡ levels that are specific in their magnitude, time course and spatial distributíon, accordíng to the cell function activated (Toescu, 1995).
Since Ca2+ cannot be metabolized, cells regulate theír cytoplasmic levels of free Ca2+ through numerous bínding proteíns and influx and efflux mechanisms (Fíg 1). Ca2+ ínflux to cell cytoplasm from the extracellular milieu occurs vía voltage or receptor operated channels or vía yet ill-defined capacítatíve pathways; the Na+/Ca 2+ exchanger can also produce in sorne círcumstances net ínflux of Ca2+ (Míller, 1991; Clapham, 1995). Ca2+ ef flux to the extracellular space occurs against electrochemical gradíents, and thereby the pumpíng out of Ca2+ is directly (Caz+ pump) or indirectly (Na+/Ca2+) coupled to the hy drolysis of ATP.|