Mitochondrial modulation of calcium signaling at the initiation of development. Academic Article uri icon


  • Fertilization triggers cytosolic Ca(2+) oscillations that activate mammalian eggs and initiate development. Extensive evidence demonstrates that Ca(2+) is released from endoplasmic reticulum stores; however, less is known about how the increased Ca(2+) is restored to its resting level, forming the Ca(2+) oscillations. We investigated whether mitochondria also play a role in activation-associated Ca(2+) signaling. Mitochondrial dysfunction induced by the mitochondrial uncoupler FCCP or antimycin A disrupted cytosolic Ca(2+) oscillations, resulting in sustained increase in cytosolic Ca(2+), followed by apoptotic cell death. This suggests that functional mitochondria may participate in sequestering the released Ca(2+), contributing to cytosolic Ca(2+) oscillations and preventing cell death. By centrifugation, mouse eggs were stratified and separated into fractions containing both endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria and fractions containing endoplasmic reticulum with no mitochondria. The former showed Ca(2+) oscillations by activation, whereas the latter exhibited sustained elevation in cytosolic Ca(2+) but no Ca(2+) oscillations, suggesting that mitochondria take up released cytosolic Ca(2+). Further, using Rhod-2 for detection of mitochondrial Ca(2+), we found that mitochondria exhibited Ca(2+) oscillations, the frequency of which was not different from that of cytosolic Ca(2+) oscillations, indicating that mitochondria are involved in Ca(2+) signaling during egg activation. Therefore, we propose that mitochondria play a crucial role in Ca(2+) signaling that mediates egg activation and development, and apoptotic cell death.

publication date

  • December 2001