1. The matrix pyrophosphate (PPi) content of isolated energized rat liver mitochondria incubated in the presence of ATP, Mg2+, Pi and respiratory substrate was about 100 pmol/mg of protein. 2. After incubation with sub-micromolar [Ca2+], this was increased by as much as 300%. There was a correlation between the effects of Ca2+ on PPi and on the increase in matrix volume reported previously [Halestrap, Quinlan, Whipps & Armston (1986) Biochem. J. 236, 779-787]. Half-maximal effects were seen at 0.3 microM-Ca2+. 3. Coincident with these effects, the total adenine nucleotide content increased in a carboxyatractyloside-sensitive manner. 4. Incubation with 0.2-0.5 mM-butyrate induced similar but smaller effects on mitochondrial swelling and matrix PPi and total adenine nucleotide content. Addition of butyrate after Ca2+, or vice versa, caused Ca2+-induced mitochondrial swelling to stop or reverse, while matrix PPi increased 30-fold. 5. Addition of atractyloside or the omission of ATP from incubations greatly enhanced swelling induced by Ca2+ without increasing matrix PPi. 6. Swelling of mitochondria incubated under de-energized conditions in iso-osmotic KSCN was progressively enhanced by the addition of increasing concentrations of PPi (1-20 mM) or valinomycin. 7. In iso-osmotic potassium pyrophosphate swelling was slow initially, but accelerated with time. This acceleration was inhibited by ADP, whereas carboxyatractyloside induced rapid swelling. Swelling in other iso-osmotic PPi salts showed that the rate of entry decreased in the order NH4+ greater than K+ greater than Na+ greater than Li+, whereas choline, tetramethylammonium and Tris did not enter. It is suggested that the adenine nucleotide translocase transports small univalent cations when PPi is bound and that PPi can also be transported when the transporter is in the conformation induced by carboxyatractyloside. 8. It is concluded that Ca2+ and butyrate cause swelling of energized mitochondria through this effect of PPi on K+ permeability of the mitochondrial inner membrane. 9. Freeze-clamped livers from rats treated with glucagon or phenylephrine show 30-50% increases in tissue PPi. It is proposed that Ca2+-mediated increases in mitochondrial PPi are responsible for the increase in matrix volume and total adenine nucleotide content observed after hormone treatment.

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