Mitochondrial ion channels are emerging oncological targets, as modulation of these ion-transporting proteins may impact on mitochondrial membrane potential, efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation and reactive oxygen production. In turn, these factors affect the release of cytochrome c, which is the point of no return during mitochondrial apoptosis. Many of the currently used chemotherapeutics induce programmed cell death causing damage to DNA and subsequent activation of p53-dependent pathways that finally leads to cytochrome c release from the mitochondrial inter-membrane space. The view is emerging, as summarized in the present review, that ion channels located in this organelle may account in several cases for the resistance that cancer cells can develop against classical chemotherapeutics, by preventing drug-induced apoptosis. Thus, pharmacological modulation of these channel activities might be beneficial to fight chemo-resistance of different types of cancer cells.
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