FASEB J. 33 (3) 4089-4096 [2019-03-00; online 2018-11-29]
The central role of calcium signaling during development of early vertebrates is well documented, but little is known about its role in mammalian embryogenesis. We have used immunofluorescence and time-lapse calcium imaging of cultured explanted embryonic rat kidneys to study the role of calcium signaling for branching morphogenesis. In mesenchymal cells, we recorded spontaneous calcium activity that was characterized by irregular calcium transients. The calcium signals were dependent on release of calcium from intracellular stores in the endoplasmic reticulum. Down-regulation of the calcium activity, both by blocking the sarco-endoplasmic reticulum Ca 2+-ATPase and by chelating cytosolic calcium, resulted in retardation of branching morphogenesis and a reduced formation of primitive nephrons but had no effect on cell proliferation. We propose that spontaneous calcium activity contributes with a stochastic factor to the self-organizing process that controls branching morphogenesis, a major determinant of the ultimate number of nephrons in the kidney.-Fontana, J. M., Khodus, G. R., Unnersjö-Jess, D., Blom, H., Aperia, A., Brismar, H. Spontaneous calcium activity in metanephric mesenchymal cells regulates branching morphogenesis in the embryonic kidney.