Ischemia-reperfusion injury remains a major clinical problem in liver transplantation. One contributing factor is mitochondrial calcium (mCa(2+)) overload, which triggers apoptosis; calcium also regulates mitochondrial respiration and adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) production. Recently, we reported the presence of purinergic P2Y(1)- and P2Y(2)-like receptor proteins in mitochondrial membranes. Herein, we present an evaluation of the functional characteristics of these receptors. In experiments with isolated mitochondria, specific P2Y(1) and P2Y(2) receptors ligands: 2-methylthio-adenosine 5'-diphosphate (2meSADP) and uridine 5'-triphosphate (UTP), respectively, were used, and mitochondrial calcium uptake was measured. 2meSADP and UTP had a maximum effect at concentrations in the range of the known P2Y(1) and P2Y(2) receptors. The P2Y inhibitor phosphate-6-azophenyl-2',4'-disulfonate (PPADS) blocked the effects of both ligands. The phospholipase C (PLC) antagonist U73122 inhibited the effect of both ligands while its inactive analog U73343 had no effect. These data strongly support the hypothesis that mitochondrial Ca(2+) uptake is regulated in part by adenine nucleotides via a P2Y-like receptor mechanism that involves mitochondrial PLC activation.