Since deregulation of intracellular Ca2+ can lead to intracellular trypsin activation, and stromal interaction molecule-1 (STIM1) protein is the main regulator of Ca2+ homeostasis in pancreatic acinar cells, we explored the Ca2+ signaling in 37 STIM1 variants found in three pancreatitis patient cohorts. Extensive functional analysis of one particular variant, p.E152K, identified in three patients, provided a plausible link between dysregulated Ca2+ signaling within pancreatic acinar cells and chronic pancreatitis susceptibility. Specifically, p.E152K, located within the STIM1 EF-hand and sterile α-motif domain, increased the release of Ca2+ from the endoplasmic reticulum in patient-derived fibroblasts and transfected HEK293T cells. This event was mediated by altered STIM1–sarco/endoplasmic reticulum calcium transport ATPase (SERCA) conformational change and enhanced SERCA pump activity leading to increased store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE). In pancreatic AR42J cells expressing the p.E152K variant, Ca2+ signaling perturbations correlated with defects in trypsin activation and secretion, and increased cytotoxicity after cholecystokinin stimulation.

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