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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Jun-Jul;1797(6-7):607-18. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2010.05.005. Epub 2010 May 12.

Mitochondria: the calcium connection.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Padua, Italy.


Calcium handling by mitochondria is a key feature in cell life. It is involved in energy production for cell activity, in buffering and shaping cytosolic calcium rises and also in determining cell fate by triggering or preventing apoptosis. Both mitochondria and the mechanisms involved in the control of calcium homeostasis have been extensively studied, but they still provide researchers with long-standing or even new challenges. Technical improvements in the tools employed for the investigation of calcium dynamics have been-and are still-opening new perspectives in this field, and more prominently for mitochondria. In this review we present a state-of-the-art toolkit for calcium measurements, with major emphasis on the advantages of genetically encoded indicators. These indicators can be efficiently and selectively targeted to specific cellular sub-compartments, allowing previously unavailable high-definition calcium dynamic studies. We also summarize the main features of cellular and, in more detail, mitochondrial calcium handling, especially focusing on the latest breakthroughs in the field, such as the recent direct characterization of the calcium microdomains that occur on the mitochondrial surface upon cellular stimulation. Additionally, we provide a major example of the key role played by calcium in patho-physiology by briefly describing the extensively reported-albeit highly controversial-alterations of calcium homeostasis in Alzheimer's disease, casting lights on the possible alterations in mitochondrial calcium handling in this pathology.

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