The discovery of calcium-mediated signalling pathways in the regulation of cellular function has truly revolutionized the fields of life science and medicine. The knowledge gained on how various factors increase calcium mobilization and how calcium controls cellular activity has widely expanded the areas of cell and molecular biology, and has led to the development of novel therapeutic strategies ranging from the treatment of heart disease to the improvement of learning and memory. These discoveries represent one of the most important cell signalling pathways in biology and have changed forever the way we think about prevention and treatment of disease.
Cellular communication occurs through chemical signals such as hormones, neurotransmitters and nitric oxide, which act via specific receptors or receptive molecules and are linked to diverse intracellular and extracellular signalling pathways. Berridge’s major achievement was to discover one such pathway that is linked to the hydrolysis of inositol lipids. This signalling system liberates two key second messengers, namely, IP3 (inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate) and DAG (diacylglycerol). IP3 was discovered by Berridge, who showed that it functioned to release calcium from internal stores. This IP3/Ca2+ signalling system is of fundamental importance in regulating diverse cellular processes such as muscle contraction, cell growth and differentiation, secretion, fertilization, synaptic plasticity and information processing.