Pathological metabolic conditions such as ischemia induce the rupture of the mitochondrial envelope and the release of pro-apoptotic proteins, leading to cell death. At the onset of this process, the inner mitochondrial membrane becomes depolarized and permeable to osmolytes, proposedly due to the opening of a non-selective protein channel of unknown molecular identity. A recent study purports that this channel, referred to as Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore (MPTP), is formed within the c-subunit ring of the ATP synthase, upon its dissociation from the catalytic domain of the enzyme. Here, we examine this claim for two c-rings of different lumen width, through calculations of their ion conductance and selectivity based on all-atom molecular dynamics simulations. We also quantify the likelihood that the lumen of these c-rings is in a hydrated, potentially conducting state rather than empty or blocked by lipid molecules. These calculations demonstrate that the structure and biophysical properties of a correctly assembled c-ring are inconsistent with those attributed to the MPTP.
Keywords: apoptosis; bioenergetics; biophysics; ion channels; mitochondria; molecular dynamics; none; structural biology.