Calcium (Ca2+) homeostasis is essential for neuronal function and survival. Altered Ca2+ homeostasis has been consistently observed in neurological diseases. How Ca2+ homeostasis is achieved in various cellular compartments of disease-relevant cell types is not well understood. Here we show in Drosophila Parkinson’s disease (PD) models that Ca2+ transport from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) to mitochondria through the ER-mitochondria contact site (ERMCS) critically regulates mitochondrial Ca2+ (mito-Ca2+) homeostasis in dopaminergic (DA) neurons, and that the PD-associated PINK1 protein modulates this process. In PINK1 mutant DA neurons, the ERMCS is strengthened and mito-Ca2+ level is elevated, resulting in mitochondrial enlargement and neuronal death. Miro, a well-characterized component of the mitochondrial trafficking machinery, mediates the effects of PINK1 on mito-Ca2+ and mitochondrial morphology, apparently in a transport-independent manner. Miro overexpression mimics PINK1 loss-of-function effect, whereas inhibition of Miro or components of the ERMCS, or pharmacological modulation of ERMCS function, rescued PINK1 mutant phenotypes. Mito-Ca2+ homeostasis is also altered in the LRRK2-G2019S model of PD and the PAR-1/MARK model of neurodegeneration, and genetic or pharmacological restoration of mito-Ca2+ level is beneficial in these models. Our results highlight the importance of mito-Ca2+ homeostasis maintained by Miro and the ERMCS to mitochondrial physiology and neuronal integrity. Targeting this mito-Ca2+ homeostasis pathway holds promise for a therapeutic strategy for neurodegenerative diseases.
ER-mitochondria contact site, calcium homeostasis, PINK1, Miro, Parkinson’s disease