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Mitochondrial Calcium Transport: Physiological And Pathological Relevance

T. E. Gunter, K. K. Gunter, S. S. Sheu, C. E. Gavin

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Since the initiation of work on mitochondrial Ca2+ transport in the early 1960s, the relationship between experimental observations and physiological function has often seemed enigmatic. Why, for example, should an organelle dedicated to the crucial task of producing approximately 95% of the cell's ATP sequester Ca2+, sometimes in preference to phosphorylating ADP? Why should there be two separate efflux mechanisms, the Na+ independent and the Na+ dependent, both thought until recently to be driven exclusively either directly or indirectly by the energy of the pH gradient? Does intramitochondrial free Ca2+ concentration control metabolism? Is there evidence for any separate function of the mitochondrial Ca2+ transport mechanisms under pathological conditions? What is the relationship between mitochondrial Ca2+ transport, the mitochondrial membrane permeability transition, and irreversible cell damage under pathological conditions? First, we review what is known about control of metabolism, evidence for a role for intramitochondrial Ca2+ in control of metabolism, the cellular conditions under which mitochondria are exposed to Ca2+, characteristics of the mitochondrial Ca2+ transport mechanisms including the permeability transition, and evidence for and against mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake in vivo. Then the questions listed above and others are addressed from the perspective of the characteristics of the mechanisms of mitochondrial Ca2+ transport.