From the very moment of conception, calcium plays a pivotal role in fetal development. It rushes in as a wave around the egg to herald the sperm's arrival, binding to proteins that help kick off the whole developmental process. From this first influx, calcium continues to play a critical role in how the body's cells respond to outside signals. Calcium tells muscles to contract and nerves to release neurotransmitters, and is at least part of the signal that helps people form and retain memories. Calcium's role comes full circle with its involvement in cell death.

What's so mind-boggling about calcium signaling is its diversity. Not only does calcium play different roles in different cell types, it can play various roles within a single cell depending on both how it enters the cell and how much does so. In neuronal cells, calcium may trigger neurotransmitter release, ion channel gating, kinase activation,...

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