The Calcium Carriers of Mitochondria

  • Martin Crompton


Until quite recently, the phenomenon of mitochondrial Ca2+ transport was enigmatic. The generally held belief that mitochondria may provide an intracellular sink for Ca2+ evolved naturally from extensive work in the early 1960’s (Lehninger et al., 1967; Carafoli and Lehninger, 1971), which established that mitochondria from very nearly all sources examined accumulate massive amounts of Ca2+ under appropriate in vitro conditions. Indeed, more recent studies have demonstrated that mitochondria in situ do sequester Ca2+ introduced into the cytoplasm by microinjection (salivary gland cells; Rose and Lowenstein, 1975) or by electrical stimulation (nerve cells; Brinley et al., 1977). Subsequent studies concentrated on the kinetic properties of the transport system responsible for Ca2+ uptake and its relation to the general features of mitochondrial energy transduction (Bygrave, 1977). These studies interpreted the profound capacity for Ca2+ uptake in chemiosomotic terms, whereby the mitochondrial inner membrane potential (Δψ)* provides the driving force for Ca2+ accumulation, and revealed the relatively low affinity of the transport system for external Ca2+. These features in themselves, i.e., massive capacity and low affinity, favored the sink concept in implying that the capacity for Ca2+ uptake would be largely unused except in the event of some cellular emergency involving a rise in cytoplasmic Ca2+. Moreover, intramitochondrial Ca2+ was considered inert biochemically. Consequently, mitochondrial Ca2+ transport was frequently viewed as a mere appendix of mainstream Ca2+ metabolism, apparent only when something went wrong.


Liver Mitochondrion Heart Mitochondrion Independent System Pyridine Nucleotide Efflux System 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Crompton
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiochemistryUniversity College LondonLondonEngland

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