Trypanosomes and the solution to a 50-year mitochondrial calcium mystery

Trends Parasitol. 2012 Jan;28(1):31-7. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2011 Nov 14.


The ability of mitochondria to take up Ca(2+) was discovered 50 years ago. This calcium uptake, through a mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU), is important not only for the regulation of cellular ATP concentration but also for more complex pathways such as shaping Ca(2+) signals and the activation of programmed cell death. The molecular nature of the uniporter remained unknown for decades. By a comparative study of mitochondrial protein profiles of organisms lacking or possessing MCU, such as yeast in the former case and vertebrates and trypanosomes in the latter, two groups recently found the protein that possesses all the characteristics of the MCU. These results add another success story to the already substantial contributions of trypanosomes to mammalian biochemistry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Trypanosoma / metabolism*


  • Calcium Channels
  • mitochondrial calcium uniporter
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Calcium