Open Access Open Badges Research article

Assessment of ORAI1-mediated basal calcium influx in mammary epithelial cells

Diana GF Ross1, Chanel E Smart2, Iman Azimi1, Sarah J Roberts-Thomson1 and Gregory R Monteith1*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Pharmacy, The University of Queensland, Pharmacy Australia Centre of Excellence, 20 Cornwall St, Woolloongabba, QLD, Australia

2 University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research (UQCCR), Building 71/918 Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, Herston, QLD 4029, Australia

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BMC Cell Biology 2013, 14:57  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-14-57

Published: 20 December 2013



The entry of calcium ions into mammary gland epithelial cells is one of the least well-understood processes in the transport of calcium into milk during lactation. The store-operated calcium entry channel ORAI1, has been suggested as a potential mechanism for the entry of Ca2+ into mammary gland epithelial cells from the maternal blood supply during lactation. The down regulation of the canonical ORAI1 activator STIM1 during lactation suggests that other known ORAI activators such as STIM2 and SPCA2 may be important during lactation.


Differentiation of HC11 mammary gland epithelial cells was associated with enhanced basal Ca2+ influx. Silencing of Orai1 abolished this enhancement of Ca2+ influx. Stim2 had a modest effect on Ca2+ influx in this in vitro model of lactation, whereas Stim1 and Spca2 silencing had no effect. Despite pronounced increases in Spca2 mRNA during lactation there was no change in the generation of the alternative splice product generated by Mist1, which increases during lactation.


These studies support the hypothesis that lactation is associated with a remodelling of Ca2+ influx and this is associated with enhancement of basal Ca2+ influx. This enhanced Ca2+ influx appears to occur through the calcium channel Orai1.