Rapid changes of mitochondrial Ca2+ revealed by specifically targeted recombinant aequorin

Nature. 1992 Jul 23;358(6384):325-7. doi: 10.1038/358325a0.


Introduction of Ca2+ indicators (photoproteins, fluorescent dyes) that can be trapped in the cytosolic compartment of living cells has yielded major advances in our knowledge of Ca2+ homeostasis. Ca2+ however regulates functions not only in the cytosol but also within various organelles where indicators have not yet been specifically targeted. Here we present a novel procedure by which the free Ca2+ concentration of mitochondria, [Ca2+]m, can be monitored continuously at rest and during stimulation. The complementary DNA for the Ca2+ sensitive photoprotein aequorin was fused in frame with that encoding a mitochondrial presequence. The hybrid cDNA was transfected into bovine endothelial cells and stable clones were obtained expressing variable amounts of mitochondrially targeted apoaequorin. The functional photoprotein could be reconstituted in intact cells by incubation with purified coelenterazine and [Ca2+]m could thus be monitored in situ. This allowed the unprecedented direct demonstration that agonist-stimulated elevations of cytosolic free Ca2+, [Ca2+]i, (measured in parallel with Fura-2) evoke rapid and transient increases of [Ca2+]m, which can be prevented by pretreatment with a mitochondrial uncoupler. The possibility of targeting aequorin to cellular organelles not only offers a new and powerful method for studying aspects of Ca2+ homeostasis that up to now could not be directly approached, but might also be used in the future as a tool to report in situ a variety of apparently unrelated phenomena of wide biological interest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aequorin / genetics
  • Aequorin / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cattle
  • Chimera
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Restriction Mapping
  • Transfection


  • Oligodeoxyribonucleotides
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Aequorin
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase
  • Electron Transport Complex IV
  • Calcium

Grant support