Structural Insights into Mitochondrial Calcium Uniporter Regulation by Divalent Cations
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Calcium (Ca(2+)) flux into the matrix is tightly controlled by the mitochondrial Ca(2+) uniporter (MCU) due to vital roles in cell death and bioenergetics. However, the precise atomic mechanisms of MCU regulation remain unclear. Here, we solved the crystal structure of the N-terminal matrix domain of human MCU, revealing a β-grasp-like fold with a cluster of negatively charged residues that interacts with divalent cations. Binding of Ca(2+) or Mg(2+) destabilizes and shifts the self-association equilibrium of the domain toward monomer. Mutational disruption of the acidic face weakens oligomerization of the isolated matrix domain and full-length human protein similar to cation binding and markedly decreases MCU activity. Moreover, mitochondrial Mg(2+) loading or blockade of mitochondrial Ca(2+) extrusion suppresses MCU Ca(2+)-uptake rates. Collectively, our data reveal that the β-grasp-like matrix region harbors an MCU-regulating acidic patch that inhibits human MCU activity in response to Mg(2+) and Ca(2+) binding.
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