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EMBO J. 1999 Nov 15;18(22):6349-61.

Apoptosis driven by IP(3)-linked mitochondrial calcium signals.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Room 253 JAH, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.


Increases of mitochondrial matrix [Ca(2+)] ([Ca(2+)](m)) evoked by calcium mobilizing agonists play a fundamental role in the physiological control of cellular energy metabolism. Here, we report that apoptotic stimuli induce a switch in mitochondrial calcium signalling at the beginning of the apoptotic process by facilitating Ca(2+)-induced opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (PTP). Thus [Ca(2+)](m) signals evoked by addition of large Ca(2+) pulses or, unexpectedly, by IP(3)-mediated cytosolic [Ca(2+)] spikes trigger mitochondrial permeability transition and, in turn, cytochrome c release. IP(3)-induced opening of PTP is dependent on a privileged Ca(2+) signal transmission from IP(3) receptors to mitochondria. After the decay of Ca(2+) spikes, resealing of PTP occurs allowing mitochondrial metabolism to recover, whereas activation of caspases is triggered by cytochrome c released to the cytosol. This organization provides an efficient mechanism to establish caspase activation while mitochondrial metabolism is maintained to meet ATP requirements of apoptotic cell death.

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