Research ArticlePhysiology

Radiation inhibits salivary gland function by promoting STIM1 cleavage by caspase-3 and loss of SOCE through a TRPM2-dependent pathway

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Sci. Signal.  06 Jun 2017:
Vol. 10, Issue 482, eaal4064
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.aal4064

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Why radiation causes a dry mouth

Patients with head or neck cancers who receive radiation as part of their treatment frequently complain of dry mouth, an effect that is not due to cell death in salivary glands. Liu et al. found that the ion channel TRPM2, which is activated by radiation, suppressed a Ca2+ signaling pathway required for saliva production by triggering the cleavage and inactivation of a critical component of this pathway, the Ca2+ sensor STIM1. Overexpression of STIM1 in irradiated mice increased saliva production, suggesting that strategies that prevent the loss of STIM1 could prevent the dry mouth associated with irradiation.