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Biochem J. Feb 15, 1984; 218(1): 235–247.
PMCID: PMC1153329

Role of Ca2+ ions in the regulation of intramitochondrial metabolism in rat heart. Evidence from studies with isolated mitochondria that adrenaline activates the pyruvate dehydrogenase and 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase complexes by increasing the intramitochondrial concentration of Ca2+.


Increases in the amount of active, non-phosphorylated, pyruvate dehydrogenase which result from the perfusion of rat hearts with adrenaline were still evident during the preparation of mitochondria in sucrose-based media containing EGTA (at 0 degrees C) and their subsequent incubation at 30 degrees C in Na+-free KCl-based media containing respiratory substrates and EGTA. The differences from control values gradually diminished with time of incubation, but were still present after 8 min. Similar increases resulting from an increase in the concentration of Ca2+ in the perfusing medium also persisted. However, similar increases caused by 5 mM-pyruvate were only maintained during the preparation of mitochondria, not their incubation. Parallel increases, within incubated mitochondria, were found in the activity of the 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase complex assayed at a non-saturating concentration of 2-oxoglutarate. The enhancement of the activities of both of these Ca2+-sensitive enzymes within incubated mitochondria as a result of perfusion with adrenaline or a raised concentration of Ca2+ in the medium could be abolished within 1 min by the presence of 10 mM-NaCl. This effect of Na+ was blocked by 300 microM-diltiazem, which has been shown to inhibit Na+-induced egress of Ca2+ from rabbit heart mitochondria [Vághy, Johnson, Matlib, Wang & Schwartz (1982) J. Biol. Chem. 257, 6000-6002]. The enhancements could also be abolished by increasing the extramitochondrial concentration of Ca2+ to a value where it caused maximal activation of the enzymes within control mitochondria. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that adrenaline activates rat heart pyruvate dehydrogenase by increasing the intramitochondrial concentration of Ca2+ and that this increase persists through to incubated mitochondria. Support for this conclusion was obtained by the yielding of a similar set of results from parallel experiments performed on control mitochondria that had firstly been preincubated (under conditions of steady-state Ca2+ cycling across the inner membrane) with sufficient proportions of Ca-EGTA buffers to achieve a similar degree of Ca2+-activation of pyruvate dehydrogenase (as caused by adrenaline) and had then undergone the isolation procedure again.

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