Life after the birth of the mitochondrial Na+/Ca2+ exchanger, NCLX

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16 Scopus citations


Powered by the mitochondrial membrane potential, Ca2+ permeates the mitochondria via a Ca2+ channel termed Ca2+ uniporter and is pumped out by a Na+/Ca2+ exchanger, both of which are located on the inner mitochondrial membrane. Mitochondrial Ca2+ transients are critical for metabolic activity and regulating global Ca2+ responses. On the other hand, failure to control mitochondrial Ca2+ is a hallmark of ischemic and neurodegenerative diseases. Despite their importance, identifying the uniporter and exchanger remains elusive and their inhibitors are non-specific. This review will focus on the mitochondrial exchanger, initially describing how it was molecularly identified and linked to a novel member of the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger superfamily termed NCLX. Molecular control of NCLX expression provides a selective tool to determine its physiological role in a variety of cell types. In lymphocytes, NCLX is essential for refilling the endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ stores required for antigendependent signaling. Communication of NCLX with the store-operated channel in astroglia controls Ca2+ influx and thereby neuro-transmitter release and cell proliferation. The refilling of the Ca2+ stores in the sarcoplasmic reticulum, which is controlled by NCLX, determines the frequency of action potential and Ca2+ transients in cardiomyocytes. NCLX is emerging as a hub for integrating glucose-dependent Na+ and Ca2+ signaling in pancreatic β cells, and the specific molecular control of NCLX expression resolved the controversy regarding its role in neurons and β cells. Future studies on an NCLX knockdown mouse model and identification of human NCLX mutations are expected to determine the role of mitochondrial Ca2+ efflux in organ activity and whether NCLX inactivation is linked to ischemic and/or neurodegenerative syndromes. Structure-function analysis and protein analysis will identify the NCLX mode of regulation and its partners in the inner membrane of the mitochondria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-65
Number of pages7
JournalScience China Life Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • MCU
  • NCLX
  • Na signaling
  • Na/Ca exchanger
  • mitochondrial Ca signaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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