The calcium-sensing receptor (CaSR) is a Class CG-protein coupled receptor which senses extracellular levels of calcium ion. It is primarily expressed in the parathyroid gland and the renal tubules of the kidney. In the parathyroid gland, the calcium-sensing receptor controls calcium homeostasis by regulating the release of parathyroid hormone (PTH). In the kidney it has an inhibitory effect on the reabsorption of calcium, potassium, sodium, and water depending on which segment of the tubule is being activated.
The release of PTH is inhibited in response to elevations in plasma calcium concentrations and activation of the calcium receptor. Increased calcium binding on the extracellular side gives a conformational change in the receptor, which, on the intracellular side, initiates the phospholipase C pathway, presumably through a Gqα type of G protein, which ultimately increases intracellular concentration of calcium, which inhibits vesicle fusion and exocytosis of parathyroid hormone. It also inhibits (not stimulates, as some sources state) the cAMP dependent pathway.
Calcilytic drugs, which block CaSR, produce increased bone density in animal studies and have been researched for the treatment of osteoporosis. Unfortunately clinical trial results in humans have proved disappointing, with sustained changes in bone density not observed despite the drug being well tolerated. More recent research has shown the CaSR receptor to be involved in numerous other conditions including Alzheimer's disease, asthma and some forms of cancer, and calcilytic drugs are being researched as potential treatments for these.
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