Patch-clamp technique to study mitochondrial membrane biophysics

J Gen Physiol. 2023 Aug 7;155(8):e202313347. doi: 10.1085/jgp.202313347. Epub 2023 Jun 22.


Mitochondria are double-membrane organelles crucial for oxidative phosphorylation, enabling efficient ATP synthesis by eukaryotic cells. Both of the membranes, the highly selective inner mitochondrial membrane (IMM) and a relatively porous outer membrane (OMM), harbor a number of integral membrane proteins that help in the transport of biological molecules. These transporters are especially enriched in the IMM, where they help maintain transmembrane gradients for H+, K+, Ca2+, PO43-, and metabolites like ADP/ATP, citrate, etc. Impaired activity of these transporters can affect the efficiency of energy-transducing processes and can alter cellular redox state, leading to activation of cell-death pathways or metabolic syndromes in vivo. Although several methodologies are available to study ion flux through membrane proteins, the patch-clamp technique remains the gold standard for quantitatively analyzing electrogenic ion exchange across membranes. Direct patch-clamp recordings of mitoplasts (mitochondria devoid of outer membrane) in different modes, such as whole-mitoplast or excised-patch mode, allow researchers the opportunity to study the biophysics of mitochondrial transporters in the native membrane, in real time, in isolation from other fluxes or confounding factors due to changes in ion gradients, pH, or mitochondrial potential (ΔΨ). Here, we summarize the use of patch clamp to investigate several membrane proteins of mitochondria. We demonstrate how this technique can be reliably applied to record whole-mitoplast Ca2+ currents mediated via mitochondrial calcium uniporter or H+ currents mediated by uncoupling protein 1 and discuss critical considerations while recording currents from these small vesicles of the IMM (mitoplast diameter = 2-5 µm).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Calcium* / metabolism
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Membranes* / metabolism
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques


  • Calcium
  • Adenosine Triphosphate