CALHM1 (calcium homoeostasis modulator 1), a membrane protein with similarity to NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor channels that localizes in the plasma membrane and the ER (endoplasmic reticulum) of neurons, has been shown to generate a plasma-membrane Ca2+ conductance and has been proposed to influence Alzheimer's disease risk. In the present study we have investigated the effects of CALHM1 on intracellular Ca2+ handling in HEK-293T [HEK (human embryonic kidney)-293 cells expressing the large T-antigen of SV40 (simian virus 40)] cells by using targeted aequorins for selective monitorization of Ca2+ transport by organelles. We find that CALHM1 increases Ca2+ leak from the ER and, more importantly, reduces ER Ca2+ uptake by decreasing both the transport capacity and the Ca2+ affinity of SERCA (sarcoplasmic/endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase). As a result, the Ca2+ content of the ER is drastically decreased. This reduction in the Ca2+ content of the ER triggered the UPR (unfolded protein response) with induction of several ER stress markers, such as CHOP [C/EBP (CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein)-homologous protein], ERdj4, GRP78 (glucose-regulated protein of 78 kDa) and XBP1 (X-box-binding protein 1). Thus CALHM1 might provide a relevant link between Ca2+ homoeostasis disruption, ER stress and cell damage in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases

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