CD38 is a bifunctional ectoenzyme, predominantly expressed on hematopoietic cells during differentiation, that catalyzes the synthesis (cyclase) and the degradation (hydrolase) of cyclic ADP-ribose (cADPR), a powerful calcium mobilizer from intracellular stores. Due to the well established role of calcium levels in the regulation of apoptosis, proliferation, and differentiation, the CD38/cADPR system seems to be a likely candidate involved in the control of these fundamental processes. The ectocellular localization of the cyclase activity, however, contrasts with the intracellular site of action of cADPR. Here we demonstrate that ectocellular expression of human CD38 in CD38- HeLa and 3T3 cells results in intracellular CD38 substrate (NAD+ + NADH) consumption and product (cADPR) accumulation. Furthermore, a causal relationship is established between presence of intracellular cADPR, partial depletion of thapsigargin-sensitive calcium stores, increase in basal free cytoplasmic calcium concentration, and decrease of cell doubling time. The significant shortening of the S phase in CD88+ HeLa cells, as compared with controls, demonstrates an effect of intracellular cADPR on the mammalian cell cycle.
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