Mitochondrial Ion Channels

Annu Rev Physiol. 2007;69:19-49. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physiol.69.031905.163804.


In work spanning more than a century, mitochondria have been recognized for their multifunctional roles in metabolism, energy transduction, ion transport, inheritance, signaling, and cell death. Foremost among these tasks is the continuous production of ATP through oxidative phosphorylation, which requires a large electrochemical driving force for protons across the mitochondrial inner membrane. This process requires a membrane with relatively low permeability to ions to minimize energy dissipation. However, a wealth of evidence now indicates that both selective and nonselective ion channels are present in the mitochondrial inner membrane, along with several known channels on the outer membrane. Some of these channels are active under physiological conditions, and others may be activated under pathophysiological conditions to act as the major determinants of cell life and death. This review summarizes research on mitochondrial ion channels and efforts to identify their molecular correlates. Except in a few cases, our understanding of the structure of mitochondrial ion channels is limited, indicating the need for focused discovery in this area.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / biosynthesis
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ion Channels / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation


  • Ion Channels
  • Adenosine Triphosphate