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J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2009 Jun;46(6):781-8. doi: 10.1016/j.yjmcc.2009.03.003. Epub 2009 Mar 12.

Controlling metabolism and cell death: at the heart of mitochondrial calcium signalling.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Padova, Padua, Italy.


Transient increases in intracellular calcium concentration activate and coordinate a wide variety of cellular processes in virtually every cell type. This review describes the main homeostatic mechanisms that control Ca(2+) transients, focusing on the mitochondrial checkpoint. We subsequently extend this paradigm to the cardiomyocyte and to the interplay between cytosol, endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria that occurs beat-to-beat in excitation-contraction coupling. The mechanisms whereby mitochondria decode fast cytosolic calcium spikes are discussed in the light of the results obtained with recombinant photoproteins targeted to the mitochondrial matrix of contracting cardiomyocytes. Mitochondrial calcium homeostasis is then highlighted as a crucial point of convergence of the environmental signals that mediate cardiac cell death, both by necrosis and by apoptosis. Altogether we point to a role of the mitochondrion as an integrator of calcium signalling and a fundamental decision maker in cardiomyocyte metabolism and survival.

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