PerspectiveCell Biology

A Revolving Door for Calcium

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Science  02 Oct 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5949, pp. 57-58
DOI: 10.1126/science.1180482

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Mitochondria are subcellular organelles that produce energy in the form of adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) in response to chemical cues. They encode and decode cytosolic calcium (Ca2+) signals, which can boost cellular respiration by regulating mitochondrial enzymes, but can also induce programmed cell death (apoptosis) by controlling the organelle's permeability. The Ca2+ transporters of mitochondria are well characterized functionally but have not been identified. On page 144 of this issue, Jiang et al. (1) show that leucine zipper EF hand–containing transmembrane protein 1 (Letm1) is one of the elusive Ca2+-transport proteins. The transporter may be a good candidate for the pathogenesis of Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a severe human neurological disease characterized by mental retardation and seizures.