Spadini S, Racchetti G, Adiletta A, Lamanna J, Moro AS, Ferro M, Zimarino V, Malgaroli A. (2021). A novel integrated approach to estimate the mitochondrial content of neuronal cells and brain tissues. J Neurosci Methods. 2021 Nov


Background: Mitochondria and their dynamics fuel most cellular processes both in physiological and pathological conditions. In the central nervous system, mitochondria sustain synaptic transmission and plasticity via multiple mechanisms which include their redistribution and/or expansion to higher energy demanding sites, sustaining activity changes and promoting morphological circuit adaptations.

New method: To be able to evaluate changes in mitochondrial number and protein phenotype, we propose a novel methodological approach where the simultaneous analysis of both mitochondrial DNA and protein content is performed on each individual microsample, avoiding non-homogeneous loss of material.

Results: We validated this method on neuronal-like cells and tissue samples and obtained estimates for the mitochondrial/genomic DNA ratio as well as for the abundance of protein counterparts. When the mitochondrial content per cell was evaluated in different brain areas, our results matched the known regional variation in aerobic-anaerobic metabolism. When long-term potentiation (LTP) was induced on hippocampal neurons, we detected increases in the abundance of mitochondria that correlated with the degree of synaptic enhancement.

Conclusions: Our approach can be effectively used to study the mitochondrial content andits changes in different brain cells and tissues.

Keywords: Energy metabolism; LTP; Mitochondria; Neuronal metabolism; Synaptic plasticity; Synaptic transmission.