The mitochondrial Na+/Ca2+ exchanger

Raz Palty, Israel Sekler

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Powered by the steep mitochondrial membrane potential Ca2+ permeates into the mitochondria via the Ca2+ uniporter and is then extruded by a mitochondrial Na+/Ca2+ exchanger. This mitochondrial Ca2+ shuttling regulates the rate of ATP production and participates in cellular Ca2+ signaling. Despite the fact that the exchanger was functionally identified 40 years ago its molecular identity remained a mystery. Early studies on isolated mitochondria and intact cells characterized the functional properties of a mitochondrial Na+/Ca2+ exchanger, and showed that it possess unique functional fingerprints such as Li+/Ca2+ exchange and that it is displaying selective sensitivity to inhibitors. Purification of mitochondria proteins combined with functional reconstitution led to the isolation of a polypeptide candidate of the exchanger but failed to molecularly identify it. A turning point in the search for the exchanger molecule came with the recent cloning of the last member of the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger superfamily termed NCLX (Na+/Ca2+/Li+ exchanger). NCLX is localized in the inner mitochondria membrane and its expression is linked to mitochondria Na+/Ca2+ exchange matching the functional fingerprints of the putative mitochondrial Na+/Ca2+ exchanger. Thus NCLX emerges as the long sought mitochondria Na+/Ca2+ exchanger and provide a critical molecular handle to study mitochondrial Ca2+ signaling and transport. Here we summarize some of the main topics related to the molecular properties of the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger, beginning with the early days of its functional identification, its kinetic properties and regulation, and culminating in its molecular identification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalCell Calcium
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • CGP-37157 mitochondria
  • NCLX

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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