Changes in [Ca2+]i are essential in modulating a variety of cellular functions. In no other cell type does the regulation of [Ca2+]i reach the level of sophistication observed in cells of neuronal origin. Because of its physicochemical characteristics, the fluorescent Ca2+ indicator Fura-2 has become extremely popular among neuroscientists. The use of this probe, however, has generated a number of problems, in particular, extracytosolic trapping and leakage from intact cells. In the first part of this contribution we briefly discuss the practical application of Fura-2 to the study of [Ca2+]i in primary cultures of neurons and astrocytes. In the second part, we review some recent data (mainly from our laboratories) obtained in neurons and neuroendocrine cells, concerning the regulation of different types of Ca2+ channels and the role and mechanism of intracellular Ca2+ mobilization. The experimental evidence supporting the existence of a previously unrecognised organelle, the calciosome, that we hypothesize represents the functional equivalent in non-muscle cells of sarcoplasmic reticulum, will also briefly be discussed.
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