Mechanisms by which mitochondria transport calcium

Am J Physiol. 1990 May;258(5 Pt 1):C755-86. doi: 10.1152/ajpcell.1990.258.5.C755.


It has been firmly established that the rapid uptake of Ca2+ by mitochondria from a wide range of sources is mediated by a uniporter which permits transport of the ion down its electrochemical gradient. Several mechanisms of Ca2+ efflux from mitochondria have also been extensively discussed in the literature. Energized mitochondria must expend a significant amount of energy to transport Ca2+ against its electrochemical gradient from the matrix space to the external space. Two separate mechanisms have been found to mediate this outward transport: a Ca2+/nNa+ exchanger and a Na(+)-independent efflux mechanism. These efflux mechanisms are considered from the perspective of available energy. In addition, a reversible Ca2(+)-induced increase in inner membrane permeability can also occur. The induction of this permeability transition is characterized by swelling of the mitochondria, leakiness to small ions such as K+, Mg2+, and Ca2+, and loss of the mitochondrial membrane potential. It has been suggested that the permeability transition and its reversal may also function as a mitochondrial Ca2+ efflux mechanism under some conditions. The characteristics of each of these mechanisms are discussed, as well as their possible physiological functions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological


  • Calcium