Inhibition of the mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter by pure and impure ruthenium red

Mol Cell Biochem. 1994 Oct 12;139(1):33-40. doi: 10.1007/BF00944201.


Commercial ruthenium red is often purified by a single recrystallization as described by Luft, J.H. (1971) Anat Rec 171, 347-368, which yields small amounts of material having an apparent molar extinction coefficient of approximately 67,400 at 533 nm. A simple modification to the procedure dramatically improves the yield, allowing crystallization to be repeated. Three times recrystallized ruthenium red has an apparent extinction coefficient of approximately 85,900, the highest value reported to date. Both crude and highly purified ruthenium red can be shown to inhibit reverse activity of the mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter (uncoupled mitochondria), provided that care is taken to minimize and account for Ca2+ release through the permeability transition pore. Crude ruthenium red is 7-10 fold more potent than the highly purified material in this regard, on an actual ruthenium red concentration basis. The same relative potency is seen against forward uniport (coupled mitochondria), however, the I50 values are 10 fold lower for both the crude and purified preparations. These data demonstrate unambiguously that the energy state of mitochondria affects the sensitivity of the Ca2+ uniporter to ruthenium red preparations, and that both the forward and reverse reactions are subject to complete inhibition. The data suggest, however, that the active inhibitor may not be ruthenium red per se, but one or more of the other ruthenium complexes which are present in ruthenium red preparations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Calcium / pharmacokinetics*
  • Calcium Channels / drug effects
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cell Fractionation
  • Ion Channels / drug effects
  • Magnesium / pharmacokinetics
  • Male
  • Mitochondria, Liver / drug effects*
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Ruthenium Red / isolation & purification*
  • Ruthenium Red / pharmacology*
  • Strontium / pharmacokinetics


  • Calcium Channels
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Ion Channels
  • mitochondrial calcium uniporter
  • Ruthenium Red
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Strontium