The role of pyruvate in neuronal calcium homeostasis. Effects on intracellular calcium pools

J Biol Chem. 1994 Jan 28;269(4):2468-76.


It has long been known that pyruvate is essential for survival of prenatal neurons in culture. To understand the role of exogenous pyruvate in neuronal calcium homeostasis, we have investigated the effects of pyruvate (plus malate) addition to dissociated adult rat hippocampal and cerebral cortex cells and cultured CNS neurons having an unrestricted glucose supply. We found that pyruvate (plus malate) increased the respiration rate while ATP levels were unchanged. At the same time, cytosolic free calcium concentrations, [Ca2+]i, decreased while total 45Ca2+ and 40Ca2+ accumulation increased. The extra Ca2+ accumulated by the cells is attributable to an increase in the size of the intracellular calcium pools. Two such pools were identified on the basis of their sensitivity to specific drugs. The first pool was mobilized by thapsigargin plus tert-butyl hydroquinone and caffeine while the second pool was discharged by the mitochondrial uncoupler carbonyl cyanide p-trifluoromethoxphenylhydrazone (FCCP) (plus oligomycin). The two pools represented about 15-20% and 15-30%, respectively, of the rapidly exchangeable 45Ca2+ pools in cerebral cortex cells. In cultured hippocampal neurons, the collapse of the mitochondrial membrane potential (as induced by uncouplers (FCCP) or respiratory chain inhibitors (antimycin) caused a large increase in [Ca2+]i which varied in size and shape among cells and was reduced by external Ca2+ chelation. The latter condition also resulted in a partial discharge of FCCP-releasable 45Ca2+. The effects of FCCP did not result simply from ATP depletion since incubation in glucose-free medium and sequential additions of 2 mM deoxyglucose and 10 microM oligomycin, conditions that led to a dramatic reduction in cellular ATP levels, did not abolish the FCCP-induced [Ca2+]i rise. Taken together, the results indicate that mitochondria harbor a significant proportion of cellular Ca2+. The sensitivity of the mitochondrial pool size to pyruvate (plus malate) questions previous hypotheses concerning a kinetic limitation for Ca2+ accumulation in mitochondria in resting neurons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism
  • Adenosine Diphosphate / metabolism
  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Radioisotopes
  • Carbonyl Cyanide p-Trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebral Cortex / metabolism*
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Deoxyglucose / pharmacology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Malates / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Oligomycins / pharmacology
  • Oxygen Consumption / drug effects
  • Pyruvates / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Ruthenium Red / pharmacology


  • Calcium Radioisotopes
  • Malates
  • Oligomycins
  • Pyruvates
  • Ruthenium Red
  • Carbonyl Cyanide p-Trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone
  • Adenosine Diphosphate
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Deoxyglucose
  • Acetylcholine
  • Calcium