Advances in imaging of understudied ions in signaling: A focus on magnesium

Tomas S. Lazarou, Daniela Buccella

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The study of metal ions in the context of cell signaling has historically focused mainly on Ca2+, the second messenger par excellence. But recent studies support an emerging paradigm in which other metals, including magnesium and d-block metals, play a role in signal transduction as well. Armed with the right indicators, fluorescence microscopy offers a unique combination of spatial and temporal resolution perfectly suited to reveal metal transients in real time, while also helping identify possible sources of ion mobilization and molecular targets. With a focus on Mg2+, we highlight recent advancements in the development of molecular indicators and imaging strategies for the study of metal ions in signaling. We discuss remaining conceptual and technical challenges in the field, and we illustrate through the case of Mg2+ how the study of nontraditional ions in signaling is inspiring technological developments applicable more broadly to the study of metals in biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-33
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Fluorescent sensors
  • Metal ion
  • Molecular imaging
  • Second messenger
  • Signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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