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Mitochondrial Calcium Handling in Neurons

Mitochondria, crucial functioning organelles within cells, are routinely referred to as the "powerhouse" of the cell, given their primary function of producing the majority of the biochemical energy required for cellular life. However, beyond meeting the energy demands, mitochondria are also fundamentally involved in several cellular processes, one of which is calcium (Ca2+) handling. For neurons – nerve cells that form the basis of the nervous system – this capability is paramount.

The complex interplay between mitochondrial calcium handling and neuronal functions has been under critical examination for many years, capturing the attention of numerous researchers. This renewed focus can be attributed to the pivotal role that mitochondrial calcium handling plays in several physiological processes, as well as neurological disorders. Therefore, understanding mitochondrial calcium handling in neurons is vital for potential therapeutic advancements in treating various neurological conditions.

Creative Biolabs explores mitochondrial calcium handling in neurons and can provide basic assay services and neuroscience research tools for related research programs.

Services What We Do Advantages
Calcium Assay Service We offer novel calcium assays to clients around the world, including customized simple and quantitative methods for measuring calcium in different biological fluids.
  • Simple operation process
  • Rapid detection
  • High sensitivity
  • Wide range of applications
  • Multiple sample types
High-throughput Phenotypic Screen Services Mitochondrial dysfunction is a common mechanism and phenotype shared by many neurological disorders. We can provide phenotypic screening services for application in new drug discovery.
  • More physiologically relevant
  • Rigorous statistical validation
  • High-throughput operation
Huntington's Disease Models Service We can develop stem cell-based in vitro HD models to analyze their pathophysiology or drug screening, including mimicking abnormal mitochondrial function.
  • Reduce the high cost of in vivo studies
  • Control of the extracellular environment
  • Greater avoidance of ethical issues
Fluorescent Sensor Our researchers use advanced techniques to study mitochondrial calcium handling in neurons, including fluorescent calcium indicators, providing valuable insights into the dynamics of calcium levels.
  • High sensitivity
  • Wide range of applications

Mitochondrial Calcium Handling: A Fundamental Overview

In neurons, calcium is responsible for several functions, including neurotransmission, gene expression and synaptic plasticity. However, disturbances in calcium homeostasis have been implicated in various neurodegenerative disorders, due to the deleterious effects of calcium overload.

Mitochondrial ion transport mechanisms involved in regulating calcium entry and efflux. Fig. 1 Mitochondrial ion transport mechanisms involved in regulating calcium entry and efflux.1

Mitochondria act as cellular "guardians," modulating cytosolic calcium in neurons through a series of complex processes. This dynamic balance of calcium flow within the cell also involves several other cellular parts including the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and cell membrane. Key protein channels, including the mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU), are implicated in these processes and function to mediate the mitochondrial calcium uptake. They possess a unique set of proteins and transporter proteins that facilitate calcium uptake and release. Calcium transport into and out of mitochondria is a dynamic process influenced by a number of factors including membrane potential, pH and proximity to a calcium source.

Mitochondrial Calcium Handling

Mitochondrial calcium uptake is a crucial process for neuronal survival. Hence, maintaining a finely-tuned balance is paramount, as any dysregulation can lead to cell death.

  • On one hand, the uptake of calcium by mitochondria helps in buffering cytosolic calcium levels, subsequently protecting neurons from excitotoxicity – a process that causes neuronal damage and death.
  • On the other hand, excessive mitochondrial calcium uptake can induce opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP), triggering cell apoptosis – a form of programmed cell death.

Neuronal plasticity, the ability of neurons to adapt and change their function, is tightly linked to calcium signaling. Long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD), processes underlying learning and memory, rely on precise calcium regulation. Mitochondria contribute to these processes by shaping calcium dynamics within the neuronal compartments.

Implications for Neurological Disorders

Dysregulation of mitochondrial calcium handling has been implicated in various neurological disorders. Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease exhibit altered calcium homeostasis and mitochondrial dysfunction. Understanding the link between mitochondrial calcium handling and these disorders may offer new therapeutic avenues.

Mitochondrial calcium exchange in physiology and disease. Fig. 2 Mitochondrial calcium exchange in physiology and disease.2

  • Alzheimer's disease is characterized by β-amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, which are linked to calcium dysregulation and mitochondrial dysfunction.
  • Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease involve calcium dysregulation and mitochondrial disturbances, contributing to neuronal loss.

Notably, cumulative research shines light on the potential role of mitochondrial calcium handling in the discovery of novel treatments. By targeting mitochondrial calcium handling ion channels in neurons, researchers can potentially create advanced interventions. For instance,

  • MCU blockers
  • Targeting mPTP opening or inhibiting molecules
  • Manipulating other mitochondrial functions, such as energy generation

Mitochondrial calcium handling in neurons is a complex and vital process, affecting a plethora of cellular functions and implicating in a myriad of neurological disorders. Our increasing understanding of mitochondrial calcium handling presents numerous potential treatment strategies.

We at Creative Biolabs are continually exploring the facets of mitochondrial calcium handling and its implications on neurological disorders, creating a launching pad for potentially revolutionary therapeutic interventions. We are committed to fostering accelerated biological research. To collaborate or understand more about our ongoing research, do connect with our experts.


  1. Finkel, Toren, et al. "The ins and outs of mitochondrial calcium." Circulation research 116.11 (2015): 1810-1819.
  2. Garbincius, et al. "Mitochondrial calcium exchange in physiology and disease." Physiological reviews 102.2 (2022): 893-992.

For Research Use Only. Not For Clinical Use.