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Journal Article

Electrophysiological characterization of contact sites in brain mitochondria.


Stuehmer,  W.
Department of Membrane Biophysics, MPI for biophysical chemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Moran, O., Sandri, G., Panfili, E., Stuehmer, W., & Sorgato, M. C. (1990). Electrophysiological characterization of contact sites in brain mitochondria. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 265(2), 908-913.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-0E6E-9
From morphological and biochemical studies it has been recognized that the regions where the outer and inner membranes of mitochondria come in close contact (contact sites) can be the route mechanism through which mitochondria interact directly with the cytoplasm. We have studied these regions electrophysiologically with the patch clamp technique, with the aim of understanding if this direct interaction is mediated by high conductance ion channels similar to the channel already detected in the inner membrane of mitochondria (Sorgato M. C., Keller, B. U., and Stühmer, W. (1987) Nature 330, 498-500). Contact sites isolated from rat brain mitochondria were thus incorporated into liposomes subsequently enlarged sufficiently to be patch clamped. This study shows that these particular fractions contain ion channels with conductances ranging from approximately 5 picosiemens to 1 nanosiemens (in symmetrical 150 mM KCl). Most of these channels are not voltage-dependent and can be open at physiological potentials sustained by respiring mitochondria. The lack of voltage sensitivity seems not to be the outcome of methodological artifacts, as voltage-gated channels are detected in giant liposomes containing either the outer mitochondrial membrane or a partially purified fraction of the inner mitochondrial membrane. These data therefore indicate that channels present in mitochondrial contact sites have properties which render them amenable to perform several of the functions hypothesized for these regions, particularly that of translocating macromolecules from the cytoplasm to the matrix of mitochondria.