Mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU) channel is responsible for Ruthenium Red-sensitive mitochondrial calcium uptake. Here, we demonstrate MCU oligomerization by immunoprecipitation and Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) and characterize a novel protein (MCUb) with two predicted transmembrane domains, 50% sequence similarity and a different expression profile from MCU. Based on computational modelling, MCUb includes critical amino-acid substitutions in the pore region and indeed MCUb does not form a calcium-permeable channel in planar lipid bilayers. In HeLa cells, MCUb is inserted into the oligomer and exerts a dominant-negative effect, reducing the [Ca(2+)]mt increases evoked by agonist stimulation. Accordingly, in vitro co-expression of MCUb with MCU drastically reduces the probability of observing channel activity in planar lipid bilayer experiments. These data unveil the structural complexity of MCU and demonstrate a novel regulatory mechanism, based on the inclusion of dominant-negative subunits in a multimeric channel, that underlies the fine control of the physiologically and pathologically relevant process of mitochondrial calcium homeostasis.