Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type





Anatomy and Neurobiology

First Advisor

Dr. James W. Geddes


μ -Calpain is localized to the mitochondrial intermembrane space. Apoptosisinducing factor (AIF), which executes caspase-independent cell death, is also localized to the mitochondrial intermembrane space. Following processing at the N-terminus, AIF becomes truncated (tAIF) and is released from mitochondria. The protease responsible for AIF processing has not been established. The same submitochondrial localization of mitochondrial μ-calpain and AIF gives support to the hypothesis that mitochondrial μ-calpain may be responsible for processing AIF. Atractyloside-induced tAIF release in rat liver mitochondria was inhibited by cysteine protease inhibitor MDL28170, but not by calpain inhibitors PD150606 or calpastatin. Moreover, μ-calpain immunoreactivity was difficult to detect in rat liver mitochondria. In a mitochondrial fraction from SH-SY5Y cells, incubation with 5 mM Ca2+ resulted in the activation of mitochondrial μ-calpain but not in AIF truncation. Finally, in hippocampal neurons calpain activation did not induce AIF processing or nuclear translocation and AIF translocation to nucleus was calpain independent. The localization of μ-calpain to the mitochondrial intermembrane space is suggestive of its possible involvement in AIF processing, but direct experimental evidence supporting such a role has been elusive.

We observed that mitochondrial μ-calpain required high Ca2+ for activation. We examined the hypothesis that the endogenous calpain inhibitor, calpastatin, may be present in the neuronal mitochondria. Calpastatin was detected in the mitochondriaenriched fraction obtained from rat cerebral cortex and SH-SY5Y cells. The mitochondrial calpastatin was resistant to proteinase K digestion, indicating localization internal to the outer mitochondrial membrane. Submitochondrial fractionation revealed that the calpastatin was localized to the mitochondrial intermembrane space and mitoplasts (inner mitochondrial membrane and matrix) but not to the mitochondrial outer membrane fraction. Mitochondrial calpastatin was not detected when mitoplasts were incubated with proteinase K, suggesting that calpastatin is not present in the matrix. The N-terminus of XL domain of calpastatin, when fused to GFP and transfected to SH-SY5Y cells showed mitochondrial localization and thus confirmed the presence of a mitochondrial targeting sequence in calpastatin. Together, these results demonstrate the presence of calpastatin in the neuronal mitochondrial intermembrane space, the same

submitochondrial compartment as mitochondrial μ-calpain. This finding explains the high Ca2+ requirements for mitochondrial μ-calpain activation.



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