Characteristics of the Calcium-Triggered Mitochondrial Permeability Transition in Nonsynaptic Brain Mitochondria

Effect of Cyclosporin A and Ubiquinone 0


  • Tibor Kristián,

  • Jeff Gertsch,

  • Timothy E. Bates,

  • Bo K. Siesjö

  • Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc., Philadelphia

  • Abbreviations used: CCCP, carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone; CsA, cyclosporin A; MPT, mitochondrial permeability transition; Rh, rhodamine; RR, ruthenium red; Ub0, ubiquinone 0.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. T. Kristián at Center for the Study of Neurological Disease, The Queen's Medical Center, 1356 Lusitana Street, UH Tower 8th Floor, Honolulu, HI 96813, U.S.A.


Abstract: The objective of the present study was to assess the capacity of nonsynaptic brain mitochondria to accumulate Ca2+ when subjected to repeated Ca2+ loads, and to explore under what conditions a mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) pore is assembled. The effects of cyclosporin A (CsA) on Ca2+ accumulation and MPT pore assembly were compared with those obtained with ubiquinone 0 (Ub0), a quinone that is a stronger MPT blocker than CsA, when tested on muscle and liver mitochondria. When suspended in a solution containing phosphate (2 mM) and Mg2+ (1 mM), but no ATP or ADP, the brain mitochondria had a limited capacity to accumulate Ca2+ (210 nmol/mg of mitochondrial protein). Furthermore, when repeated Ca2+ pulses (40 nmol/mg of protein each) saturated the uptake system, the mitochondria failed to release the Ca2+ accumulated. However, in each instance, the first Ca2+ pulse was accompanied by a moderate release of Ca2+, a release that was not observed during the subsequent pulses. The initial release was accompanied by a relatively marked depolarization, and by swelling, as assessed by light-scattering measurements. However, as the swelling was <50% of that observed following addition of alamethicin, it is concluded that the first Ca2+ pulse gives rise to an MPT in a subfraction of the mitochondrial population. CsA, an avid blocker of the MPT pore, only marginally increased the Ca2+-sequestrating capacity of the mitochondria. However, CsA eliminated the Ca2+ release accompanying the first Ca2+ pulse. The effects of CsA were shared by Ub0, but when the concentration of Ub0 exceeded 20 μM, it proved toxic. The results thus suggest that brain mitochondria are different from those derived from a variety of other sources. The major difference is that a fraction of the brain mitochondria, studied presently, depolarized and showed signs of an MPT. This fraction, but not the remaining ones, contributed to the chemically and electron microscopically verified mitochondrial swelling.