Calcium Homeostasis in Health and Disease

Calcium ARC is a unique interdisciplinary collaborative environment of more than 25 investigators from 18 laboratories in 15 Sections/Departments from BUSM and Charles River BU campuses. These investigators are experts in complementary fields, who share common interest in Ca2+ homeostasis and are seeking an opportunity to work together on common projects directly related to various diseases. Calcium ARC will allow us to look at the mechanisms of cellular function from many different perspectives, will promote development of novel ideas, enable us to identify common molecular determinants and mechanisms of Ca2+ signaling in diverse cell types, and allow their translation to human disease. As a group, Calcium ARC will have new synergistic power to address the mechanisms of impairment in ER/SR Ca2+ homeostasis and its pathological consequences for cardiovascular, skeletal, pancreatic and other systems, and relate them to human disease. Calcium ARC supports fruitful collaboration between active investigators, and helps in creation of new advanced knowledge.

Specific Goals:

  • To create a new collaborative environment and multidisciplinary integrative approach (from single molecules to the disease of interest) that will become a new source of ideas and interdisciplinary knowledge in the specific area of Ca2+ signaling and translational studies in health and disease
  • To share conceptual and experimental expertise, and to create additional valuable resources to successfully address the questions of common interest
  • To open new directions for interdisciplinary research, and bring new possibilities for collaborative grant applications for extramural funding
  • To provide an important platform for multidisciplinary education for Calcium ARC members to enrich their intellectual and experimental potential through regular seminars (with inside and outside speakers), training sessions, and discussion panels


Guest speaker for our ARC meeting:
Thursday, June 14th, 2012
2:00- 3:30pm, X-715
Fumihiko Urano, MD, PhD Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis
will present a seminar: “Human Endoplasmic Reticulum Disease: From Causality to Cure”

Participating Faculty

Faculty Name / Degree Role in ARC Department(s) / School Email address Web Link
Kenneth Albrecht, PhD, Associate Professor Member Molecular Medicine/ Genetics/BUSM /BU Genome Science Institute
Victoria Bolotina, PhD, Professor Director,


Ion Channel and Calcium Signaling/ Medicine/ BUSM
Wellington Cardoso,           MD, PhD, Professor API Pulmonary Center/ BUSM
Richard A. Cohen, MD, Professor API Vascular Biology/ Medicine/ BUSM
Wilson Colucci,  MD, Professor API Cardiology/Medicine/

Barbara Corkey,

PhD, Professor

API Obesity/Medicine /

Jude Deeney, PhD, Assistant Professor API Obesity/Medicine /

Lynn Lingyi Deng, PhD,              Assistant Professor Member Analytical Instrumentation Core/Medicine/BUMC
Susan Doctrow, PhD                   Associate Professor API Pulmonary/Medicine/


Isabel Dominguez, PhD, Assistant Professor Member Hematology/Oncology/ BUSM
Sweta Girgenrath, PhD, Assistant Professor API Health Sciences,  Boston University (Charles River Campus)
Mike Kirber, PhD, Associate Professor Co-Director, API Cellular Imaging Core/Medicine/        BUSM
Igor Kramnik, MD, Associate Professor API Aerobiology NEIDL/Medicine/     BUSM
Simon Levy, PhD, Associate Professor Member Physiology and Biophysics/      BUSM
Anthony Molina, PhD, Instructor Member Obesity/Medicine/                         BUSM
Monty Montano, PhD, Assistant Professor Member Infectious Disease/ Medicine/   BUSM
Kathleen Morgan, PhD, Professor API Health Sciences, Boston University (Charles River Campus)
Sayon Roy,             PhD, Professor API Endocrinology/

Grzegorz Rymarczyk, PhD, Research Instructor API Ion Channel and Calcium Signaling/ Medicine/BUSM
Orian Shirihai, PhD, Associate Professor Member Obesity/Medicine/                         BUSM
Maria Trojanowska, PhD, Professor API Arthritis Center/ Medicine/ BUSM
Joseph Vita, MD, Professor Member Cardiology/CVI Medicine/ BMC
Kenneth Walsh, PhD, Professor Member CVI/Medicine/                                BUSM
Adrian Whitty, PhD, Associate Professor Member Chemistry/                                    Boston University                        (Charles River Campus)
Yu (Brandon) Xia, PhD, Assistant Professor API Chemistry/ Bioinformatics/ Biomedical Engineering/ Boston University (Charles River Campus)
XiaoYong Tong, Research Assistant Professor Member Vascular Biology/ Medicine/BUSM

Scientific background:

Ca2+ signaling affects every aspect of a cell’s life and death, and impairment of the dynamic equilibrium of Ca2+ between cytosol and endoplasmic /sarcoplasmic reticulum (ER/SR) is one of the leading causes of cellular dysfunction in a wide variety of pathological conditions. Failure of ER/SR to sustain its Ca2+ content (which is essential for protein folding and other vital cellular processes) results in Ca2+ store depletion that is known to be one of the major elements of a complex, but poorly-defined pathological phenomenon known as ER stress. Significant progress has been achieved in identification of specific molecules and signaling cascades that are involved in ER/SR Ca2+ homeostasis, but very little is known about the causes and consequences of their malfunctioning and their role in human disease.

Focus Groups:

Cardiovascular Group: Will focus on molecular mechanisms of ER/SR Ca2+ store depletion and test/establish their role in endothelial cells, cardiac myocytes and vascular SMC with a focus on cardiovascular dysfunction and diabetic retinopathy. Using complimentary expertise of R.Cohen (SERCA, endothelial and SMC, complications of diabetes, angiogenesis), V.Bolotina (vascular SMC, iPLA2β, Ca2+ signaling), W.Colucci (cardiac myocytes, cardiac hypertrophy, role of SERCA and Ca2+), M.Trojanowska (endothelial cells, ER stress), S.Roy (endothelial cells, angiogenesis, retinopathy), M.Kirber (SMC, Ca2+ signaling, imaging), we plan to test the mechanisms and cardiovascular consequences of impaired SERCA-dependent store refilling, and/or STIM1/iPLA2β-dependent Ca2+ entry. We will focus on the studies of ER/SR Ca2+ homeostasis in the cells and cardiovascular problems (heart hypertrophy, vascular dysfunction, and potential retinopathy) of two new mouse models (SERCA cysteine to serine-674 knock-in mice, and inducible iPLA2β ex2 KO mice) that are available in the labs of R.Cohen and V.Bolotina. Preliminary studies showed that these mice have different forms of cardiovascular dysfunction, which we want to study in detail. To distinguish between cardiac and vascular phenotypes in these mice, we plan to develop a new inducible vascular SMC-specific iPLA2β ex2 KO mouse model. To identify the translational value of our findings, we plan to obtain the relevant human tissue samples (through NDRI) from healthy individuals and those with cardiovascular disease and/or diabetes, and characterize the differences in expression and function of the molecules of our interest.

Skeletal Muscle Group: will focus on the mechanism and molecular determinants of ER/SR Ca2+ store depletion and their role in skeletal muscle dysfunction. Using complimentary expertise and interests of S.Girgenrath (skeletal muscle, dystrophy, regeneration, ER stress), M.Montano (skeletal muscle, aging), I.Dominguez (skeletal muscle), V.Bolotina (Ca2+ signaling, STIM1, iPLA2β), M.Kirber (Ca2+ release channels, imaging) we will focus on determining the specific components of ER/SR Ca2+ homeostasis that can be impaired in (and/or lead to) congenital and other forms of muscular dystrophy. We will also test if regeneration of skeletal muscle may be impaired in SERCA cysteine-674 knock-in mice and inducible iPLA2β ex2 KO mice.

Diabetes Group: is interested in the role of ER Ca2+ homeostasis in insulin secretion and mitochondrial function in beta cells with a focus on diabetes. Synergistic expertise and interests of B.Corkey (Ca2+, metabolism, beta cells, diabetes), J.Deeney (metabolic control of insulin secretion, beta cells), V. Bolotina (Ca2+ signaling, ion channels, membrane potential, iPLA2β), O.Shirihai (mitochondrial dynamics, beta cells, imaging), A.Molina (fission/fusion, beta cells) will allow us to test some new ideas about a) the role of ER-related Ca2+ signaling in insulin secretion, b) crosstalk of ER and mitochondria and its role in fusion/fission, and c) potential role of iPLA2β and Ca2+ signaling in iron-related beta cell deficiency. For some of these studies, we may need to develop new β cell specific iPLA2β ex2 KO mice.

Additional collaborative projects: Calcium preARC resulted in generation of multiple new ideas that have potential to grow into additional focus groups. The Calcium ARC will support and provide a strong platform for development of these newly emerging projects:

  • The effects of disease-related mutations of human iPLA2β on its tertiary structure and function

(Y.Xia,  G.Rymarczyk, V.Bolotina),

  • The role of Ca2+ signaling in the establishment of cell fate and patterning of the embryonic lung

(W.Cardoso, V.Bolotina).

  • The role of CaMKII / iPLA2β interaction in vascular smooth muscle function

(K.Morgan, M.Kirber, V.Bolotina),

  • The role of PKC-dependent regulation of Ca2+ release on phenoptypic changes in vascular SMC

(M.Kirber, V.Bolotina),

  • Identification of new Ca2+ signaling targets of oxidative stress and mito-protective role of new SOD/catalase mimetics (S.Doctrow, V.Bolotina),

Calcium ARC as a new resource:

The Calcium ARC will become a new resource for all the investigators interested in Ca2+ homeostasis in health and disease. A new Calcium ARC Core will be created to help achieve scientific goals, and promote new discoveries that will lead to translation of basic cellular mechanisms to human disease. This ARC core will include the following advanced resources that otherwise may not be available for ARC members:

  • Advanced Ca2+ imaging with methodological seminars, hands on training, and the use of Imaging Core facility, partially covered by the ARC funds
  • A bank of molecular tools (vectors, siRNAs, TaqMan assays) has been created and will be freely available for all ARC members to enable expression of fluorescently tagged and/or genetically engineered proteins, down-regulation of target proteins, and profiling of gene expression in animal and human tissues and cell lines. With ARC funds this bank will be expanded by additional Ca2+-sensitive probes and Ca2+-sensing proteins directed to specific cellular compartments, and by other advanced molecular tools
  • Existing knock-out and knock-in animals will be shared, and new models will be created using ARC funds to assess the role of targeted genes/proteins in the development of different diseases. Collaborative efforts and multidisciplinary expertise of ARC members will enable the most complete studies and characterization of such animals.
  • Samples of normal and diseased human tissue will be obtained through NDRI, shared, and collectively studied by ARC members.         

Plans for frequency of meetings

We plan to have 1-2 meetings per month, which will include:

  • research seminars (3 external and 4 internal speakers/year),
  • work-in-progress group meetings (3-4/year to present research findings and discuss/evaluate the progress of each project),
  • methodological seminars (2/year) and training sessions (as needed),
  • Symposium (1/year) that will include external expert speakers, speakers chosen from ARC, short talks by the ARC trainees and students, and a poster session.
  • Each focus group will add meetings as needed.