Sources of variability in cytosolic calcium transients triggered by stimulation of homogeneous uro-epithelial cell monolayers

Peter A. Appleby, Saqib Shabir, Jennifer Southgate, Dawn Walker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epithelial tissue structure is the emergent outcome of the interactions between large numbers of individual cells. Experimental cell biology offers an important tool to unravel these complex interactions, but current methods of analysis tend to be limited to mean field approaches or representation by selected subsets of cells. This may result in bias towards cells that respond in a particularway and/ or neglect local, context-specific cell responses. Here, an automated algorithm was applied to examine in detail the individual calcium transients evoked in genetically homogeneous, but asynchronous populations of cultured nonimmortalized normal human urothelial cells when subjected to either the global application of an external agonist or a localized scratch wound. The recorded calcium transients were classified automatically according to a set of defined metrics and distinct sub-populations of cells that responded in qualitatively different ways were observed. The nature of this variability in the homogeneous cell population was apportioned to two sources: intrinsic variation in individual cell responses and extrinsic variability due to contextspecific factors of the environment, such as spatial heterogeneity. Statistically significant variation in the features of the calcium transients evoked by scratch wounding according to proximity to thewound edgewas identified. The manifestation of distinct sub-populations of cells is considered central to the coordination of population-level response resulting in wound closure.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20141403
Issue number105
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


  • Automated image analysis
  • Calcium signalling
  • Epithelium
  • Heterogeneity
  • Urothelium
  • Wound repair

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