A set of tools to study transport of mitochondria in neurons is presented in the July 2007 issue of Nature Methods.
The proper function and distribution of mitochondria, the much-described 'powerhouses of the cell', are important in neuronal physiology. Disruptions of these organelles are suspected to play a role in the pathology associated with neurodegenerative conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as well as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. But studies on the neuronal transport of mammalian mitochondria have largely been done in the tissue culture dish.
Jeff Lichtman and colleagues now present mice in which the neuronal mitochondria as well as the neurons themselves have been labelled with genetically-encoded fluorescent proteins. In contrast to a previously published report of similar transgenic mice, here the authors demonstrate the utility of these models to study axonal transport in vivo. The movement of mitochondria can be imaged either in live mice or in acute nerve-muscle explants, which more closely resemble the in vivo setting than isolated neuronal cells. The researchers were also able to damage selected nerves in vivo and study changes in transport of the mitochondria through the nerves in the damaged region.
Jeff Lichtman (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Abstract available online.
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