1. Mitochondrial dysfunction, secondary to excessive accumulation of Ca2+, has been implicated in cardiac injury. We here examined the action of potassium channel openers on mitochondrial Ca2+ homeostasis, as these cardioprotective ion channel modulators have recently been shown to target a mitochondrial ATP-sensitive K+ channel. 2. In isolated cardiac mitochondria, diazoxide and pinacidil decreased the rate and magnitude of Ca2+ uptake into the mitochondrial matrix with IC50 of 65 and 128 μM, respectively. At all stages of Ca2+ uptake, the potassium channel openers depolarized the mitochondrial membrane thereby reducing Ca2+ influx through the potential-dependent mitochondrial uniporter. 3. Diazoxide and pinacidil, in a concentration-dependent manner, also activated release of Ca2+ from mitochondria. This was prevented by cyclosporin A, an inhibitor of Ca2+ release through the mitochondrial permeability transition pore. 4. Replacement of extramitochondrial K+ with mannitol abolished the effects of diazoxide and pinacidil on mitochondrial Ca2+, while the K+ ionophore valinomycin mimicked the effects of the potassium channel openers. 5. ATP and ADP, which block K+ flux through mitochondrial ATP-sensitive K+ channels, inhibited the effects of potassium channel openers, without preventing the action of valinomycin. 6. In intact cardiomyocytes, diazoxide also induced mitochondrial depolarization and decreased mitochondrial Ca2+ content. These effects were inhibited by the mitochondrial ATP-sensitive K+ channel blocker 5-hydroxydecanoic acid. 7. Thus, potassium channel openers prevent mitochondrial Ca2+ overload by reducing the driving force for Ca2+ uptake and by activating cyclosporin-sensitive Ca2+ release. In this regard, modulators of an ATP-sensitive mitochondrial K+ conductance may contribute to the maintenance of mitochondrial Ca2+ homeostasis.
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