Mitochondria isolated from the hepatopancreas of the blue crab Callinectes sapidus show up to 12-fold stimulation of respiration on addition of Ca2+, which is accompanied by Ca2+ accumulation (Ca2+:site = 1.9) and H+ ejection (H+:Ca2+ = 0.85). Sr2+ and Mn2+ are also accumulated; Mg2+ is not. A strongly hypertonic medium (383 mosM), Mg2+, and phosphate are required for maximal Ca2+ uptake. Ca2+ uptake takes precedence over oxidative phosphorylation of ADP for respiratory energy. Once Ca2+ is accumulated by the crab mitochondria, it is stable and only very slowly released, even by uncoupling agents. ATP hydrolysis also supports Ca2+ uptake. Respiration-inhibited crab hepatopancreas mitochondria show both high-affinity and low-affinity Ca2+-binding sites, which are inactive in the presence of uncoupling agents.
Crab hepatopancreas mitochondria have an enormous capacity for accumulation of Ca2+, up to 5,500 ng-atoms Ca2+ per mg protein, with an equivalent amount of phosphate. Freshly isolated mitochondria contain very large amounts of Ca2+, Mg2+, phosphate, K+, and Na+; their high Ca2+ content is a reflection of the vary large amount of extra-mitochondrial Ca2+ in the whole tissue.
Electron microscopy of crab mitochondria loaded with Ca2+ and phosphate showed large electron-dense deposits, presumably of precipitated calcium phosphate. They consisted of bundles of needle-like crystals, whereas Ca2+-loaded rat liver mitochondria show only amorphous deposits of calcium phosphate under similar conditions. The very pronounced capacity of crab hepatopancreas mitochondria for transport of Ca2+ appears to be adapted to a role in the storage and release of Ca2+ during the molting cycle of this crustacean.