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Prog Neurobiol. 2009 Jan 12;87(1):58-79. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2008.09.017. Epub 2008 Oct 5.

Role of the mitochondrial sodium/calcium exchanger in neuronal physiology and in the pathogenesis of neurological diseases.

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Department of Neuroscience, Section of Pharmacology, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Via Tronto 10/A, 60020 Torrette di Ancona, Ancona, Italy.


In neurons, as in other excitable cells, mitochondria extrude Ca(2+) ions from their matrix in exchange with cytosolic Na(+) ions. This exchange is mediated by a specific transporter located in the inner mitochondrial membrane, the mitochondrial Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchanger (NCX(mito)). The stoichiometry of NCX(mito)-operated Na(+)/Ca(2+) exchange has been the subject of a long controversy, but evidence of an electrogenic 3 Na(+)/1 Ca(2+) exchange is increasing. Although the molecular identity of NCX(mito) is still undetermined, data obtained in our laboratory suggest that besides the long-sought and as yet unfound mitochondrial-specific NCX, the three isoforms of plasmamembrane NCX can contribute to NCX(mito) in neurons and astrocytes. NCX(mito) has a role in controlling neuronal Ca(2+) homeostasis and neuronal bioenergetics. Indeed, by cycling the Ca(2+) ions captured by mitochondria back to the cytosol, NCX(mito) determines a shoulder in neuronal [Ca(2+)](c) responses to neurotransmitters and depolarizing stimuli which may then outlast stimulus duration. This persistent NCX(mito)-dependent Ca(2+) release has a role in post-tetanic potentiation, a form of short-term synaptic plasticity. By controlling [Ca(2+)](m) NCX(mito) regulates the activity of the Ca(2+)-sensitive enzymes pyruvate-, alpha-ketoglutarate- and isocitrate-dehydrogenases and affects the activity of the respiratory chain. Convincing experimental evidence suggests that supraphysiological activation of NCX(mito) contributes to neuronal cell death in the ischemic brain and, in epileptic neurons coping with seizure-induced ion overload, reduces the ability to reestablish normal ionic homeostasis. These data suggest that NCX(mito) could represent an important target for the development of new neurological drugs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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