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J Biol Chem. 1999 Nov 19;274(47):33267-73.

Modulation of mitochondrial Ca(2+) homeostasis by Bcl-2.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan 48201, USA.


We have investigated the role of mitochondrial Ca(2+) (Ca(m)) homeostasis in cell survival. Disruption of Ca(m) homeostasis via depletion of the mitochondrial Ca(2+) store was the earliest event that occurred during staurosporine-induced apoptosis in neuroblastoma cells (SH-SY5Y). The decrease of Ca(m) preceded activation of the caspase cascade and DNA fragmentation. Overexpression of the anti-apoptosis protein Bcl-2 led to increased Ca(m) load, increased mitochondrial membrane potential (DeltaPsi(m)), and inhibition of staurosporine-induced apoptosis. On the other hand, ectopic expression of the pro-apoptotic protein Bik led to decreased Ca(m) load and decreased DeltaPsi(m). Inhibition of calcium uptake into mitochondria by ruthenium red induced a dose-dependent apoptosis as determined by nuclear staining and DNA ladder assay. Similarly, reducing the Ca(m) load by lowering the extracellular calcium concentration also led to apoptosis. We suggest that the anti-apoptotic effect of Bcl-2 is related to its ability to maintain a threshold level of Ca(m) and DeltaPsi(m) while the pro-apoptotic protein Bik has the opposite effect. Furthermore, both ER and mitochondrial Ca(2+) stores are important, and the depletion of either one will result in apoptosis. Thus, our results, for the first time, provide evidence that the maintenance of Ca(m) homeostasis is essential for cell survival.

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