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J Biol Chem. 2006 Jun 23;281(25):17347-58. Epub 2006 Apr 5.

Ca2+-dependent control of the permeability properties of the mitochondrial outer membrane and voltage-dependent anion-selective channel (VDAC).

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Department of Pathology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107, USA.


Cell function depends on the distribution of cytosolic and mitochondrial factors across the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM). Passage of metabolites through the OMM has been attributed to the voltage-dependent anion-selective channel (VDAC), which can form a large conductance and permanently open a channel in lipid bilayers. However, recent data indicate that the transport of metabolites through the OMM is controlled in the cells. Recognizing that the bilayer studies had been commonly conducted at supraphysiological [Ca2+] and [K+], we determined the effect of Ca2+ on VDAC activity. In liposomes, the purified VDAC displays Ca2+-dependent control of the molecular cut-off size and shows Ca2+-regulated Ca2+ permeability in the physiological [Ca2+] range. In bilayer experiments, at submicromolar [Ca2+], the purified VDAC or isolated OMM does not show sustained large conductance but rather exhibits gating between a nonconducting state and various subconductance states. Ca2+ addition causes a reversible increase in the conductance and may evoke channel opening to full conductance. Furthermore, single cell imaging data indicate that Ca2+ may facilitate the cation and ATP transport across the OMM. Thus, the VDAC gating is dependent on the physiological concentrations of cations, allowing the OMM to control the passage of ions and some small molecules. The OMM barrier is likely to decrease during the calcium signal.

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