Not seeing what is obvious

Sometimes we need an eye-opener to notice things which are in our reach and still beyond comprehesion. We smite our forehead and confess how could we be such blinds. The paper “The essence of female–male physiological dimorphism: Differential Ca2+-homeostasis enabled by the interplay between farnesol-like endogenous sesquiterpenoids and sex-steroids? The Calcigender paradigm” by Arnold de Loof in “General and Comparative Endocrinology” is such an eye-opener. It puts the Calcium (Ca) metabolism in an entire new prospective. De Loof argues that Ca is a toxin which has to be kept away and that reproductive activities such as egg laying and mild production have developed for this purpose since the Ca that an egg contains and which is in milk deplete the organism of much Ca.

The Ca concentration in blood is in the range of 1-3 mM in man and are conserved in evolution. In the cell however, there are only 100 nM, ten times less. The cell membrane is partially permeable for Ca so that the cell always has to deal with an excess of Ca which is permanently depleted by Ca export or/and storage in entoplasmatic reticulum vesicles.

The surprise of the paper is that de Loof finds a function for farnesol in eukaryotes: A Ca transporter in the ER that is only regulated by farnesol-like substances is common to vertebrates and insects.

Whether all the ideas of the paper will survive experimental scrutiny is to be seen, but two ideas stick: Calcium as a toxin and its role or more to the point the removal of Calcium at the origin of reproductional activity.

The paper is open access and and a must.

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