The regulation of neuronal mitochondrial metabolism by calcium

J Physiol. 2015 Aug 15;593(16):3447-62. doi: 10.1113/JP270254.


Calcium signalling is fundamental to the function of the nervous system, in association with changes in ionic gradients across the membrane. Although restoring ionic gradients is energetically costly, a rise in intracellular Ca(2+) acts through multiple pathways to increase ATP synthesis, matching energy supply to demand. Increasing cytosolic Ca(2+) stimulates metabolite transfer across the inner mitochondrial membrane through activation of Ca(2+) -regulated mitochondrial carriers, whereas an increase in matrix Ca(2+) stimulates the citric acid cycle and ATP synthase. The aspartate-glutamate exchanger Aralar/AGC1 (Slc25a12), a component of the malate-aspartate shuttle (MAS), is stimulated by modest increases in cytosolic Ca(2+) and upregulates respiration in cortical neurons by enhancing pyruvate supply into mitochondria. Failure to increase respiration in response to small (carbachol) and moderate (K(+) -depolarization) workloads and blunted stimulation of respiration in response to high workloads (veratridine) in Aralar/AGC1 knockout neurons reflect impaired MAS activity and limited mitochondrial pyruvate supply. In response to large workloads (veratridine), acute stimulation of respiration occurs in the absence of MAS through Ca(2+) influx through the mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU) and a rise in matrix [Ca(2+) ]. Although the physiological importance of the MCU complex in work-induced stimulation of respiration of CNS neurons is not yet clarified, abnormal mitochondrial Ca(2+) signalling causes pathology. Indeed, loss of function mutations in MICU1, a regulator of MCU complex, are associated with neuromuscular disease. In patient-derived MICU1 deficient fibroblasts, resting matrix Ca(2+) is increased and mitochondria fragmented. Thus, the fine tuning of Ca(2+) signals plays a key role in shaping mitochondrial bioenergetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism
  • Calcium Signaling*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism*


  • Calcium Channels
  • mitochondrial calcium uniporter
  • Adenosine Triphosphate