Research Highlights

Controlling immunity through calcium

Published online 27 December 2009

Mohammed Yahia

T lymphocytes, which play a central role in cell-mediated immunity, require a sustained Calcium ion flow for regulation, survival, activation and proliferation. Until recently, the mechanism for the entrance of calcium ions into T lymphocytes was unknown. But new research published by Jha MK et al. has identified a particular element of voltage-gated calcium channels that has an important role supplying calcium ions for the maintenance of T lymphocytes.

An international group of researchers, which included Abdallah Badou, from Université Cadi Ayyad, Faculté Polydisciplinaire Safi, Morocco, found that the β3 subunit of the voltage-gated calcium channels play a regulatory role in controlling their actions. The subunit and the channels come together to form a complex structure that regulates the flow of Calcium ions in both naive and activated T lymphocytes.

Lack of β3 led to cellular depletion of one type of voltage-gated calcium channels and had profound implications for cell survival and homeostatic maintenance. This suggests that presence of β3 is essential for protecting these pathways from degradation and keeping them functional and stable.

Voltage-gated calcium channels are known to be implicated in many pathological conditions. This research reveals more specific, potential therapeutic targets that may help in the design of therapeutic treatments that inhibit T lymphocyte cells in autoimmune diseases.


  1. Jha, M. K. et al. Defective survival of naive CD8+ T lymphocytes in the absence of the bold beta3 regulatory subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels. Nature Immunology 10, 1275-1282 (2009) | Article | PubMed |