Magnesium in Regulation of Cellular and Mitochondrial Functions, PDH activation, intracel. calcium


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The Involvement of Mg2+ in Regulation of Cellular and Mitochondrial Functions


Mg2+ is an essential mineral with pleotropic impacts on cellular physiology and functions. It acts as a cofactor of several important enzymes, as a regulator of ion channels such as voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels and K+ channels and on Ca2+-binding proteins. In general, Mg2+ is considered as the main intracellular antagonist of Ca2+, which is an essential secondary messenger initiating or regulating a great number of cellular functions. This review examines the effects of Mg2+ on mitochondrial functions with a particular focus on energy metabolism, mitochondrial Ca2+ handling, and apoptosis.

1. Impact of Mg2+ on Cellular Functions and Intracellular Mg2+ Dynamics
///, Mg2+ alters the electrophysiological properties of ion channels such as voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels and K+ channels [3].
The voltage-dependent block of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor by Mg2+ [4, 5] represents an important phenomenon in the neurosciences.
Finally, Mg2+ can affect the binding affinity of Ca2+ to specific Ca2+-binding proteins, such as calmodulin [6], S100 [7], troponin C [8], and parvalbumin [9, 10].
The effects of Mg2+ on Ca2+-handling proteins are responsible for the significant modification of intracellular Ca2+ dynamics and signalling [11].
In general, Mg2+ is considered as the main intracellular antagonist of Ca2+, which is an essential secondary messenger initiating or regulating a great number of cellular functions in various cells [12].

Recent progress in the field of Mg2+ transporter research has led to the identification of plasma membrane Mg2+ transporter SLC41A1 [13, 14], mitochondrial Mg2+ efflux system SLC41A3 [15], mitochondrial Mg2+ influx channel Mrs2 [16], and a mitochondrial Mg2+ exporter [17].

Substantial progress has also been achieved with respect to the regulation of whole body Mg2+ homeostasis [18]. These discoveries have shed new light on the importance of Mg2+ in cellular physiology including mitochondrial functions.
Mitochondria have been demonstrated to be capable of both the accumulation of Mg2+ and the release of Mg2+ [19, 20]. Thus, mitochondria represent an important intracellular Mg2+ store. Significant amount of intracellular Mg2+ has also been shown to be localised within the lumen of the endoplasmic/sarcoplasmic reticulum (ER/SR) [21]. ////

Figure 1
Regulation of mitochondrial functions by Mg2+. Mitochondrial Mg2+ activates (------>) three dehydrogenases in the mitochondrial matrix: pyruvate dehydrogenase (conversion of mitochondrial pyruvate to acetyl coenzyme A), isocitrate dehydrogenase (conversion of isocitrate to 2-oxoglutarate), and 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase (conversion of 2-oxoglutarate to succinyl coenzyme A). In addition, mitochondrial Mg2+ activates F0/F1-ATP synthase, which is the terminal complex of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). This regulatory activity contributes to mitochondrial energy metabolism. Mitochondrial Mg2+ inhibits (------|) Ca2+ transporters localised in the inner mitochondrial membrane: Ca2+-dependent permeability transition pore (PTP) opening that results in the release of a variety of compounds from mitochondria including Ca2+, mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter (MCU), mitochondrial ryanodine receptor (RyR), and mitochondrial Na+/Ca2+ exchanger (NCX). This regulatory activity contributes to both intracellular and mitochondrial Ca2+ homeostasis. Cytoplasmic Mg2+ regulates mitochondrial Bax/Bak-dependent apoptosis, which is regulated by proteins of the Bcl-2 family such as Bcl-XL, Bcl-2. TCA: tricarboxylic acid cycle/Krebs cycle, ACoA: acetyl coenzyme A, C: citrate, IC: isocitrate, OG: 2-oxoglutarate, SC: succinyl coenzyme A, S: succinate, F: fumarate, M: malate, OA: oxaloacetate, RaM: rapid mode of mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake, HCX: mitochondrial H+/Ca2+ exchanger, SLC41A3: mitochondrial Mg2+ efflux system, Mrs2: mitochondrial Mg2+ influx channel, VDAC: voltage dependent anion channel.

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2. Impact of Mg2+ on Energy (Oxidative) Metabolism
The oxidation of coenzymes (reduced in glycolysis, reaction catalysed by pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, β oxidation, and Krebs cycle) in the mitochondrial respiratory chain and the consequent mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation represent the major pathway of intracellular energy production in the form of ATP for all mammalian cells, except for erythrocytes. A small fraction of ATP is produced in the cytoplasm by the oxidation of glucose in the glycolysis pathway. Many of the glycolytic enzymes (hexokinase, phosphofructokinase, phosphoglycerate kinase, and pyruvate kinase) have previously been shown to be sensitive to Mg2+. The most important effect is attributable to the MgATP2 complex, which is a cofactor for these enzymes, whereas other chelation forms are inactive or inhibitory [22].

/// Mg2+ has been documented to enhance the activity of three important mitochondrial dehydrogenases involved in energy metabolism. Whereas activities of isocitrate dehydrogenase (IDH) and 2-oxoglutarate dehydrogenase complex (OGDH) are stimulated directly by the Mg2+-isocitrate complex [25] and free Mg2+ [34], respectively, the activity of pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDH) is stimulated indirectly via the stimulatory effect of Mg2+ on pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphatase, which dephosphorylates and thus activates the pyruvate decarboxylase of PDH [35]. OGDH is the rate-limiting enzyme of the Krebs cycle and acts as an important mitochondrial redox sensor [36, 37]. The results obtained by the complex investigation of the impact of Mg2+ on ATP synthesis, the mitochondrial transmembrane potential, and respiration indicate that OGDH is the main step of oxidative phosphorylation modulated by Mg2+ when 2-oxoglutarate is the oxidisable substrate; with succinate, the ATP synthase is the Mg2+-sensitive step [29]. Indeed, Mg2+ has been shown to be the activator of ATP synthesis by mitochondrial F0/F1-ATPase [38, 39].

Finally, the effect of Mg2+ on energy metabolism partially interferes with the stimulatory effect of Ca2+ on energy metabolism and mitochondrial Ca2+ transport that are particularly important in excitable cells such as neurones [42, 43] and muscle cells [44]. Increase of extramitochondrial concentration of Mg2+ that was not associated with increase of Mg2+ concentration in mitochondrial matrix led in the presence of Ca2+ to the attenuation of state 3 respiration and stimulation of state 4 respiration [45]. This effect was attributed to the Mg2+-dependent inhibition of mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake (see further) that resulted in decrease of matrix Ca2+ concentration [45].

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3. Involvement of Mg2+ in Regulation of Mitochondrial Ca2+ Transport
Mitochondria are important players in intracellular Ca2+ homeostasis and signalling [46, 47]. In response to specific signals, mitochondria are capable of both the active accumulation of intracellular Ca2+ and the release of Ca2+ from mitochondria via different Ca2+ transport mechanisms localised on mitochondrial membranes (Figure 1). Thus, they are considered as rapid-uptake slow-release buffers of cytosolic Ca2+ [48, 49]. In addition to cell signalling, mitochondrial Ca2+ plays an important role with respect to metabolism and cell survival [50, 51]. Several molecular mechanisms control mitochondrial Ca2+ transport [52].

The transport of Ca2+ through the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM) is mediated via voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) that can be modulated in various ways [52], but little is known about the effect of Mg2+ on VDAC-dependent Ca2+ transport. An early study had shown that Mg2+ did not alter single channel activity but modified single current amplitudes in the lower conductance channel [53].

Active mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake is mediated by a specific transporter, namely the mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter (MCU), which transfers Ca2+ through the inner mitochondrial membrane (IMM) at the expense of the proton gradient generated by the mitochondrial respiratory chain. The rate of uptake has been described to be proportional to the mitochondrial transmembrane potential [54], but, recently, the exponential dependence of the relative Ca2+ transport velocity on the mitochondrial transmembrane potential has received greater support [55, 56]. Another physiologically important question is associated with the low affinity of MCU for Ca2+ (apparent Kd 20–30 μM at 1 mM Mg2+) [57]. The discrepancy between the low Ca2+ affinity of the MCU observed in vitro and the high efficiency observed in vivo has been explained on the basis of the microheterogeneity of cytoplasmic Ca2+ rising during stimulation. The microdomains of high intracellular Ca2+ concentration (10–20 μM) have been suggested to be transiently formed in regions of close proximity to mitochondria and Ca2+ channels of the ER or of the plasma membrane [58]. MCU-mediated Ca2+ transport in isolated heart, kidney, and liver mitochondria is inhibited in the presence of 1.5 mM Mg2+ by approximately 50% in the heart and kidney and by 20% in the liver [59]. Similarly, the inwardly rectifying mitochondrial Ca2+ current displaying sensitivity to ruthenium red and selectivity to divalent cations, similar to that of MCU, is reduced by 0.5 mM of cytoplasmic Mg2+ concentration to 41% of its conductance in Mg2+-free solutions [60]. Moreover, mitochondrial Mg2+ loading has been shown to suppress MCU Ca2+-uptake rates [61]. The data of experimental studies were used for mathematical modelling of MCU-mediated Ca2+ transport suggesting a mixed-type inhibition mechanism for Mg2+ inhibition of the MCU function [62]. On the contrary, Mg2+ increased the rate of the active and ruthenium-red-sensitive accumulation of Ca2+ by isolated rat heart mitochondria [63]. The discrepancy has been attributed to the concentration of Ca2+ used for measurements. In the last-mentioned study [63], Ca2+ uptake was measured at 25 μM Ca2+, thus at a concentration that in the absence of Mg2+ is enough to open the permeability transition pore (PTP). Although the rate of Ca2+ transport mediated by MCU is inhibited by Mg2+, the net accumulation of Ca2+ in mitochondria was increased because of the Mg2+-mediated prevention of Ca2+ leakage from mitochondria via PTP.

Some controversial findings have been reported to be related to the mitochondrial accumulation of Ca2+ through IMM via the mitochondrial ryanodine receptor (mRyR). Western blot analysis, immunogold electron microscopy, and the high-affinity binding of [3H]-ryanodine indicate that a low level of mRyR is localised within IMM [64]. Similarly to MCU, mRyR is inhibited by low concentrations of ruthenium red (1–5 μM) and by Mg2+ [64]. However, the IMM localisation of RyRs by immunogold labelling has not been confirmed by another group [65]. Results obtained in our laboratory also argue against the significant physiological importance of mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake via mRyR, since only energised rat heart mitochondria are able to accumulate substantial amounts of Ca2+ and the accumulation is prevented by the submicromolar concentration of ruthenium red [63]. Finally, the group of Sheu [66] has suggested that, upon Ca2+ overload in the matrix, mRyR might be responsible for mitochondrial Ca2+ efflux, thus preventing the activation of PTP (see below).

Recent study documented that Mg2+ does not affect the rapid mode of mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake [67] that represents another mechanism of Ca2+ transport through the IMM distinct from MCU [68].

The main route of mitochondrial Ca2+ release has previously been demonstrated to depend on the Ca2+-induced release of Ca2+ from mitochondria (mCICR). The mechanism of mCICR involves the transitory opening of the PTP operating in a low conductance mode. Therefore, Ca2+ fluxes from mitochondria are a direct consequence of the mitochondrial depolarisation spike (mDPS) caused by PTP opening [69]. In vitro, both mDPS and mCICR can propagate from one mitochondrion to another, generating travelling depolarisation and Ca2+ waves. Mitochondria therefore appear to be excitable organelles capable of generating and conveying electrical and Ca2+ signals. In living cells, mDPS/mCICR is triggered by IP3-induced Ca2+ mobilisation leading to amplification of the Ca2+ signals primarily emitted from the ER [69]. As documented in our laboratory, the opening of PTP in the low conductance mode depends significantly on the Mg2+ concentration [63]. This is in agreement with the previous study that documented the inhibitory effect of divalent cations including Mg2+ on Ca2+-dependent opening of PTP [70].

Two additional antiporters are suggested to play an important role with respect to mitochondrial Ca2+ release/efflux [51, 57]. In nonexcitable tissues (liver, kidney), such an antiport, appear to be predominantly an H+/Ca2+ exchanger, whereas in excitable tissues (heart, brain), it appears to be primarily a Na+/Ca2+ exchanger [71, 72]. The molecule responsible for the Na+/Ca2+ exchange was identified in 2010 [73]. A possible molecular candidate for the H+/Ca2+ exchange (Letm1) was reported in 2009 [74], although this proposal is still controversial [75, 76]. As suggested by Takeuchi and coworkers [51], further analysis is necessary to determine whether Letm1 is, indeed, the H+/Ca2+ exchanger mediating Ca2+ extrusion from mitochondria. The transport activity of the Na+/Ca2+ exchanger is inhibited by Mg2+ at concentration 2.5 mM [77], whereas Mg2+ does not inhibit the Ca2+ flux mediated by the H+/Ca2+ exchanger Letm1, even at ∼300-fold excess [75].

5. Conclusions
Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in the mechanisms of several serious human pathologies including metabolic [93, 94], cardiovascular [95], and neurodegenerative [96, 97] diseases. As we have discussed above, Mg2+ affects mitochondrial functions that have an important impact on cell survival. Recent work on Mrs2 knockdown HeLa cells has unambiguously revealed that the disruption of mitochondrial Mg2+ homeostasis has a dramatic impact on a cellular energy status and cell vulnerability [31]. Moreover, mitochondrial extruder SLC41A3 has been shown to be involved in the regulation of the whole-body Mg2+ balance [98]. These findings argue for more systematic research in the field of Mg2+ and mitochondria. Since mitochondria display significant cell and tissue heterogeneity [49, 99], the impact of mitochondrial Mg2+ on cellular physiology can also be anticipated to be cell- and tissue-type-dependent. Experiments on a variety of cell types will be important. In addition, the impact of Mg2+ on apoptosis initiation and execution in various cells has to be investigated in more detail. With respect to apoptosis, the cell-type specificity and the cause-consequence relations between apoptosis initiation and changes in the intracellular or mitochondrial concentration of Mg2+ are still unclear. Moreover, recent studies strongly point to the importance of ER-mitochondria interactions with respect to mitochondrial functions, Ca2+ homeostasis, and dynamics [100, 101]. Since the ER transport of Mg2+ is not as clear yet, the study of the transport of Mg2+ through the ER membrane and the possible impact of the luminal Mg2+ concentration on ER-mitochondria crosstalk and on mitochondrial Mg2+ transport and functions will be crucial. Finally, other processes are localised in the mitochondria, which are also considered as the main site of the intracellular production of reactive oxygen species. The effect of Mg2+ on these processes has not been discussed in this review, but some interest should be focused on this direction in the future.



Senior Member
Vermont, school in Western MA
I've been told a lot that magnesium is ultra important esp. when taking thyroid, and that hypothyroidism could cause magnesium loss. I've never really seemed to get a ton of benefit from taking normal amounts of magnesium pills. I wonder about getting pure magnesium, like making magnesium bicarbonate water, and taking slightly higher doses. Anybody have experience with this?


Senior Member
Though not with Mg-bicarbonate, I trialed all other Mg forms up to 2.6 g/d of oral supplemented elemental Mg (beside 0.7 g from diet). As I just wrote in an other thread:
PS: Personally tried all oral forms of magnesium to overcome a severe deficiency (malate, glycinate, ascorbate, threaonate, citrate, oxide, sulfate...) and found they work equally for me to alleviate very pain-full muscle-cramps somewhat, as long as the elemental magnesium would amount to the same. But only Mg-sulfate IVs ceased these cramps from deficiency. As always, your results may vary.
The Mg-sulfate I orally take is a natural Mineral water, which contains 1 g/l, additionally 3 mg/l of lithium.


Senior Member
Northcoast NSW, Australia
I don't know what the relationship of Mg2 to Mg is. I need a lot of mg, more when stressed. Recently I've needed extra for no apprent reason. Easy to tell when I need it, my hands cramp.these days normal daily dose is 1600 mg. For some while I needed a lot more than that. When I researched a bit, I added boron, and the amount of mg I needed dropped.


Senior Member
And what effects Ca2+ homeostasis?

Think about the change from 0G to 4G then read Martin Palls research paper.