Calculation of ion currents across the inner membrane of functionally intact mitochondria

Daniel A. Kane, Evgeny V. Pavlov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mitochondrial ion transport systems play a central role in cell physiology. Rates of Ca2+ and K+ transport across the inner mitochondrial membrane have been derived from the measurement of ion accumulation over time within functional isolated mitochondria or mitochondria of cultured cells. Alternatively, the electrical currents generated by ionic flux have been directly measured in purified and swollen mitochondrial samples (mitoplasts) or reconstituted channels, and typically range from 1 pA to several 100s pA. However, the direct electrophysiological approach necessarily requires extensive processing of the mitochondria prior to measurement, which can only be performed on isolated mitoplasts. To compare rates of mitochondrial ion transport measured in electrophysiological experiments to those measured in intact mitochondria and cells, we converted published rates of mitochondrial ion uptake into units of ionic current. We estimate that for monovalent ions, uptake by intact mitochondria at the rate of 1 nmol · mg-1 protein · min-1 is equivalent to 0.2 fA of current per whole single mitochondrion (0.4 fA for divalent ions). In intact mitochondria, estimated rates of electrogenic cation uptake are limited to 1-100 fA of integral current per single mitochondrion. These estimates are orders of magnitude lower than the currents through mitochondrial channels directly measured via patch-clamp or artificial lipid bilayer approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbera6
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2013


  • Calcium
  • Ion transport
  • Lipid bilayer
  • Mitochondria
  • Patch-clamp
  • Potassium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry


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