Opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore (MPTP) is sensitized to [Ca(2+)] by oxidative stress (diamide) and phenylarsine oxide (PAO). We have proposed that both agents cross-link two thiol groups on the adenine nucleotide translocase (ANT) involved in ADP and cyclophilin-D (CyP-D) binding. Here, we demonstrate that blocking Cys(160) with 80 microM eosin 5-maleimide (EMA) or 500 microM N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) greatly decreased ADP inhibition of the MPTP. The ability of diamide, but not PAO, to block ADP inhibition of the MPTP was antagonized by treatment of mitochondria with 50 microM NEM to alkylate matrix glutathione. Binding of detergent-solubilized ANT to a PAO-affinity matrix was prevented by pre-treatment of mitochondria with diamide, EMA or PAO, but not NEM. EMA binding to the ANT in submitochondrial particles (SMPs) was prevented by pre-treatment of mitochondria with either PAO or diamide, implying that both agents modify Cys(160). Diamide and PAO pre-treatments also inhibited binding of solubilized ANT to a glutathione S-transferase-CyP-D affinity column, both effects being blocked by 100 microM EMA. Intermolecular cross-linking of adjacent ANT molecules via Cys(57) by copper phenanthroline treatment of SMPs was abolished by pre-treatment of mitochondria with diamide and PAO, but not with EMA. Our data suggest that PAO and diamide cause intramolecular cross-linking between Cys(160) and Cys(257) directly (not antagonized by 50 microM NEM) or using glutathione (antagonized by 50 microM NEM) respectively. This cross-linking stabilizes the "c" conformation of the ANT, reducing the reactivity of Cys(57), while enhancing CyP-D binding to the ANT and antagonizing ADP binding. The two effects together greatly sensitize the MPTP to [Ca(2+)].