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Biophys J. 1999 Feb;76(2):725-34.

Transient and long-lasting openings of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore can be monitored directly in intact cells by changes in mitochondrial calcein fluorescence.

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  • 1Centro per lo Studio delle Biomembrane, CNR, Italy.


The occurrence and the mode of opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MTP) were investigated directly in intact cells by monitoring the fluorescence of mitochondrial entrapped calcein. When MH1C1 cells and hepatocytes were loaded with calcein AM, calcein was also present within mitochondria, because (i) its mitochondrial signal was quenched by the addition of tetramethylrhodamine methyl ester and (ii) calcein-loaded mitochondria could be visualized after digitonin permeabilization. Under the latter condition, the addition of Ca2+ induced a prompt and massive release of the accumulated calcein, which was prevented by CsA, indicating that calcein release could, in principle, probe MTP opening in intact cells as well. To study this process, we developed a procedure by which the cytosolic calcein signal was quenched by Co2+. In hepatocytes and MH1C1 cells coloaded with Co2+ and calcein AM, treatment with MTP inducers caused a rapid, though limited, decrease in mitochondrial calcein fluorescence, which was significantly reduced by CsA. We also observed a constant and spontaneous decrease in mitochondrial calcein fluorescence, which was completely prevented by CsA. Thus MTP likely fluctuates rapidly between open and closed states in intact cells.

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