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Identification and characterization of a calcium channel gamma subunit expressed in differentiating neurons and myoblasts.

Brent M Kious, Clare V H Baker, Marianne Bronner-Fraser, Anne K Knecht

Dev. Biol., 2002 Mar 15 , 243, 249-59

Transient elevations of intracellular calcium (calcium transients) play critical roles in many developmental processes, including differentiation. Although the factors that regulate calcium transients are not clearly defined, calcium influx may be controlled by molecules interacting with calcium channels, including channel regulatory subunits. Here, we describe the chick gamma4 regulatory subunit (CACNG4), the first such subunit to be characterized in early development. CACNG4 is expressed early in the cranial neural plate, and later in the cranial and dorsal root ganglia; importantly, the timing of this later expression correlates precisely with the onset of neuronal differentiation. CACNG4 expression is also observed in nonneuronal tissues undergoing differentiation, specifically the myotome and a subpopulation of differentiating myoblasts in the limb bud. Finally, within the distal cranial ganglia, we show that CACNG4 is expressed in placode-derived cells (prospective neurons), but also, surprisingly, in neural crest-derived cells, previously shown to form only glia in this location; contrary to these previous results, we find that neural crest cells can form neurons in the distal ganglia. Given the proposed role of CACNG4 in modulating calcium channels and its expression in differentiating cells, we suggest that CACNG4 may promote differentiation via regulation of intracellular calcium levels.