Mitochondrial morphology regulates organellar Ca2+ uptake and changes cellular Ca2+ homeostasis

Alicia J. Kowaltowski, Sergio L. Menezes-Filho, Essam A. Assali, Isabela G. Gonçalves, João Victor Cabral-Costa, Phablo Abreu, Nathanael Miller, Patricia Nolasco, Francisco R.M. Laurindo, Alexandre Bruni-Cardoso, Orian S. Shirihai

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37 Scopus citations


Changes in mitochondrial size and shape have been implicated in several physiologic processes, but their role in mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake regulation and overall cellular Ca2+ homeostasis is largely unknown. Here we show that modulating mitochondrial dynamics toward increased fusion through expression of a dominant negative (DN) form of the fission protein [dynamin-related protein 1 (DRP1)] markedly increased both mitochondrial Ca2+ retention capacity and Ca2+ uptake rates in permeabilized C2C12 cells. Similar results were seen using the pharmacological fusion-promoting M1 molecule. Conversely, promoting a fission phenotype through the knockdown of the fusion protein mitofusin (MFN)-2 strongly reduced the mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake speed and capacity in these cells. These changes were not dependent on modifications in mitochondrial calcium uniporter expression, inner membrane potentials, or the mitochondrial permeability transition. Implications of mitochondrial morphology modulation on cellular calcium homeostasis were measured in intact cells; mitochondrial fission promoted lower basal cellular calcium levels and lower endoplasmic reticulum (ER) calcium stores, as indicated by depletion with thapsigargin. Indeed, mitochondrial fission was associated with ER stress. Additionally, the calcium-replenishing process of store-operated calcium entry was impaired in MFN2 knockdown cells, whereas DRP1-DN-promoted fusion resulted in faster cytosolic Ca2+ increase rates. Overall, our results show a novel role for mitochondrial morphology in the regulation of mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake, which impacts cellular Ca2+ homeostasis.-Kowaltowski, A. J., Menezes-Filho, S. L., Assali, E. A., Gonçalves, I. G., Cabral-Costa, J. V., Abreu, P., Miller, N., Nolasco, P., Laurindo, F. R. M., Bruni-Cardoso, A., Shirihai, O. Mitochondrial morphology regulates organellar Ca2+ uptake and changes cellular Ca2+ homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13176-13188
Number of pages13
JournalFASEB Journal
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • ER stress
  • bioenergetics
  • calcium
  • metabolism
  • mitochondria


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