Relative mitochondrial membrane potential and [Ca2+]i in type I cells isolated from the rabbit carotid body

J Physiol. 1992 May;450:33-61. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1992.sp019115.


1. In the accompanying paper (Duchen & Biscoe, 1992) we have described graded changes in autofluorescence derived from mitochondrial NAD(P)H in type I cells of the carotid body in response to changes of PO2 over a physiologically significant range. These observations suggest that mitochondrial function in these cells is unusually sensitive to oxygen and could play a role in oxygen sensing. We have now explored further the relationships between hypoxia, mitochondrial membrane potential (delta psi m) and [Ca2+]i. 2. The fluorescence of Rhodamine 123 (Rh 123) accumulated within mitochondria is quenched by delta psi m. Mitochondrial depolarization thus increases the fluorescence signal. Blockade of electron transport (CN-, anoxia, rotenone) and uncoupling agents (e.g. carbonyl cyanide p-trifluoromethoxy-phenylhydrazone; FCCP) increased fluorescence by up to 80-120%, while fluorescence was reduced by blockade of the F0 proton channel of the mitochondrial ATP synthase complex (oligomycin). 3. delta psi m depolarized rapidly with anoxia, and was usually completely dissipated within 1-2 min. The depolarization of delta psi m with anoxia (or CN-) and repolarization on reoxygenation both followed a time course well characterized as the sum of two exponential processes. Oligomycin (0.2-2 micrograms/ml) hyperpolarized delta psi m and abolished the slower components of both the depolarization with anoxia and of the subsequent repolarization. These data (i) illustrate the role of the F1-F0 ATP synthetase in slowing the rate of dissipation of delta psi m on cessation of electron transport, (ii) confirm blockade of the ATP synthetase by oligomycin at these concentrations, and (iii) indicate significant accumulation of intramitochondrial ADP during 1-2 min of anoxia. 4. Depolarization of delta psi m was graded with graded changes in PO2 below about 60 mmHg. The stimulus-response curves thus constructed strongly resemble those for [Ca2+]i and NAD(P)H with PO2. The change in delta psi m closely followed changes in PO2 with time. 5. The rate of rise of [Ca2+]i in response to anoxia is strongly temperature sensitive. The rate of depolarization of delta psi m with anoxia similarly increased at least two- to fivefold on warming from 22 to 36 degrees C. The change with FCCP was not significantly altered by temperature. 6. These data show that the mitochondrial membrane potential changes over a physiological range of PO2 values in type I cells. This contrasts with the behaviour in dissociated chromaffin cells and sensory neurons, in which no change was measurable until the PO2 fell close to zero.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology*
  • Carotid Body / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Electron Transport / drug effects
  • Electron Transport / physiology
  • Fluorescence
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Partial Pressure
  • Rabbits
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Rhodamines


  • Rhodamines
  • Rhodamine 123
  • Calcium