Agonist-dependent Ca2+ mobilization results in Ca2+ store depletion and Store-Operated Calcium Entry (SOCE), which is spatially restricted to microdomains defined by cortical ER – plasma membrane contact sites (MCS). However, some Ca2+-dependent effectors that localize away from SOCE microdomains, are activated downstream of SOCE by mechanisms that remain obscure. One mechanism proposed initially in acinar cells and termed Ca2+ tunneling, mediates the uptake of Ca2+ flowing through SOCE into the ER followed by release at distal sites through IP3 receptors. Here we show that Ca2+ tunneling encodes exquisite specificity downstream of SOCE signal by dissecting the sensitivity and dependence of multiple effectors in HeLa cells. While mitochondria readily perceive Ca2+ release when stores are full, SOCE shows little effect in raising mitochondrial Ca2+, and Ca2+-tunneling is completely inefficient. In contrast, gKCa displays a similar sensitivity to Ca2+ release and tunneling, while the activation of NFAT1 is selectively responsive to SOCE and not to Ca2+ release. These results show that in contrast to the previously described long-range Ca2+ tunneling, in non-specialized HeLa cells this mechanism mediates spatially restricted Ca2+ rise within the cortical region of the cell to activate a specific subset of effectors.
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