Role of mitochondrial inner membrane permeabilization in necrotic cell death, apoptosis, and autophagy

John J. Lemasters, Ting Qian, Lihua He, Jae Sung Kim, Steven P. Elmore, Wayne E. Cascio, David A. Brenner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

323 Scopus citations


Inhibition of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation progresses to uncoupling when opening of cyclosporin A-sensitive permeability transition pores increases permeability of the mitochondrial inner membrane to small solutes. Involvement of the mitochondrial permeability transition (MPT) in necrotic and apoptotic cell death is implicated by demonstrations of protection by cyclosporin A against oxidative stress, ischemia/reperfusion, tumor necrosis factor-α exposure, Fas ligation, calcium overload, and a variety of toxic chemicals. Confocal microscopy directly visualizes the MPT in single mitochondria within living cells from the translocation of impermeant fluorophores, such as calcein, across the inner membrane. Simultaneously, mitochondria release potential-indicating fluorophores. Subsequently, mitochondria swell, causing outer membrane rupture and release of cytochrome c and other proapoptotic proteins from the intermembrane space. In situ a sequence of decreased NAD(P)H, increased free calcium, and increased reactive oxygen species formation within mitochondria promotes the MPT and subsequent cell death. Necrotic and apoptotic cell death after the MPT depends, in part, on ATP levels. If ATP levels fall profoundly, glycine-sensitive plasma membrane permeabilization and rupture ensue. If ATP levels are partially maintained, apoptosis follows the MPT. The MPT also signals mitochondrial autophagy, a process that may be important in removing damaged mitochondria. Cellular features of necrosis, apoptosis, and autophagy frequently occur together after death signals and toxic stresses. A new term, necrapoptosis, describes such death processes that begin with a common stress or death signal, progress by shared pathways, but culminate in either cell lysis (necrosis) or programmed cellular resorption (apoptosis), depending on modifying factors such as ATP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-781
Number of pages13
JournalAntioxidants and Redox Signaling
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002


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