Glutamate excitotoxicity and Ca2+-regulation of respiration: Role of the Ca2+ activated mitochondrial transporters (CaMCs)

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Aug;1857(8):1158-1166. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2016.04.003. Epub 2016 Apr 7.


Glutamate elicits Ca(2+) signals and workloads that regulate neuronal fate both in physiological and pathological circumstances. Oxidative phosphorylation is required in order to respond to the metabolic challenge caused by glutamate. In response to physiological glutamate signals, cytosolic Ca(2+) activates respiration by stimulation of the NADH malate-aspartate shuttle through Ca(2+)-binding to the mitochondrial aspartate/glutamate carrier (Aralar/AGC1/Slc25a12), and by stimulation of adenine nucleotide uptake through Ca(2+) binding to the mitochondrial ATP-Mg/Pi carrier (SCaMC-3/Slc25a23). In addition, after Ca(2+) entry into the matrix through the mitochondrial Ca(2+) uniporter (MCU), it activates mitochondrial dehydrogenases. In response to pathological glutamate stimulation during excitotoxicity, Ca(2+) overload, reactive oxygen species (ROS), mitochondrial dysfunction and delayed Ca(2+) deregulation (DCD) lead to neuronal death. Glutamate-induced respiratory stimulation is rapidly inactivated through a mechanism involving Poly (ADP-ribose) Polymerase-1 (PARP-1) activation, consumption of cytosolic NAD(+), a decrease in matrix ATP and restricted substrate supply. Glutamate-induced Ca(2+)-activation of SCaMC-3 imports adenine nucleotides into mitochondria, counteracting the depletion of matrix ATP and the impaired respiration, while Aralar-dependent lactate metabolism prevents substrate exhaustion. A second mechanism induced by excitotoxic glutamate is permeability transition pore (PTP) opening, which critically depends on ROS production and matrix Ca(2+) entry through the MCU. By increasing matrix content of adenine nucleotides, SCaMC-3 activity protects against glutamate-induced PTP opening and lowers matrix free Ca(2+), resulting in protracted appearance of DCD and protection against excitotoxicity in vitro and in vivo, while the lack of lactate protection during in vivo excitotoxicity explains increased vulnerability to kainite-induced toxicity in Aralar +/- mice. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'EBEC 2016: 19th European Bioenergetics Conference, Riva del Garda, Italy, July 2-6, 2016', edited by Prof. Paolo Bernardi.

Keywords: ATP-Mg/Pi carrier; Aralar; Aspartate/glutamate carrier; Calcium; Excitotoxicity; Mitochondria; PARP-1; SCaMC-3.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antiporters / genetics
  • Antiporters / metabolism*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels / genetics
  • Calcium Channels / metabolism*
  • Cell Respiration / drug effects
  • Gene Expression
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism*
  • Glutamic Acid / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / genetics
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases / metabolism
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • ATP-Mg-Pi carrier proteins, mitochondria
  • Antiporters
  • Calcium Channels
  • Mitochondrial Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Slc25a12 protein, mouse
  • mitochondrial calcium uniporter
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Parp1 protein, mouse
  • Poly (ADP-Ribose) Polymerase-1
  • Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerases
  • Calcium