BioModels Model of the Month: Calmodulin

BioModels Model of the Month: Calmodulin

10 Nov 2017 - 15:57

Have you ever wondered how our brains learn and remember things?

The answer lies in the subtle changes of the strength with which our brain cells connect to each other. The term describing this phenomenon is synaptic plasticity. The balance between strengthened connections and weakened connections of brain cell terminals underlies memory formation or failure. What makes this more intriguing is that these opposing effects are both triggered by the elevation of the same second messenger – calcium ions, albeit via different down-stream substrates.

 In a nutshell, information transferred between our brain cells is encoded into signature intracellular calcium spikes, at distinct frequencies, amplitudes and durations. Calmodulin, a small ubiquitous protein, decodes these signals, and selectively activates its binding partners, that are responsible for strengthening or weakening neuronal connections.

PDBe model of calmodulin protein

 Calmodulin has two lobes to which calcium can bind, and thus change the structures of these two parts separately. The key to how calmodulin deciphers calcium spikes lies in these structural changes, which are fine-tuned by its ligand and targets. The October Model of the Month from our Biomodels team focused especially on these aspects of calmodulin.

BioModels’ October model allows computational biologists studying calcium signalling to explore the properties underlying calmodulin function, and probe how it is modulated by calcium and different target proteins. The model enables them to see how calcium binding can facilitate changes in calmodulin structure, therefore regulating its target binding property. The model also helps understand how target binding can feed back to modulate calmodulin state transitions, thereafter adjusting its calcium binding affinities.


Lu Li, Post-doc in Le Novère Lab, The Babraham Institute, Babraham Research Campus, Cambridge CB22 3AT Registered Charity No. 1053902

Find out more

BioModels Model of the Month, October 2017 - Modulation of calmodulin lobes by different targets: an allosteric model with hemiconcerted conformational transitions.

Find out more about Calmodulin in Uniprot, the Universal Protein Resource

Discover the structure of calmodulin in PDBe, the Protein Data Bank in Europe.

Source article

LAI, M., et al. (2015). Modulation of calmodulin lobes by different targets: an allosteric model with hemiconcerted conformational transitions. PLoS Computational Biology. Published 22  01; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004063

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