An increase in the cytoplasmic-free Ca2+ concentration mediates cellular responses to environmental signals that influence a range of processes, including gene expression, motility, secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters, changes in energy metabolism, and apoptosis. Mitochondria play important roles in cellular Ca2+ homeostasis and signaling, but the roles of specific mitochondrial proteins in these processes are unknown. Uncoupling proteins (UCPs) are a family of proteins located in the inner mitochondrial membrane that can dissociate oxidative phosphorylation from respiration, thereby promoting heat production and decreasing oxyradical production. Here we show that UCP4, a neuronal UCP, influences store-operated Ca2+ entry, a process in which depletion of endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ stores triggers Ca2+ influx through plasma membrane "store-operated" channels. PC12 neural cells expressing human UCP4 exhibit reduced Ca2+ entry in response to thapsigargin-induced endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ store depletion. The elevations of cytoplasmic and intramitochondrial Ca2+ concentrations and mitochondrial oxidative stress induced by thapsigargin were attenuated in cells expressing UCP4. The stabilization of Ca2+ homeostasis and preservation of mitochondrial function by UCP4 was correlated with reduced mitochondrial reactive oxygen species generation, oxidative stress, and Gadd153 up-regulation and increased resistance of the cells to death. Reduced Ca 2+-dependent cytosolic phospholipase A2 activation and oxidative metabolism of arachidonic acid also contributed to the stabilization of mitochondrial function in cells expressing human UCP4. These findings demonstrate that UCP4 can regulate cellular Ca2+ homeostasis, suggesting that UCPs may play roles in modulating Ca2+ signaling in physiological and pathological conditions.
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