An in vitro compartmental system underlines the contribution of mitochondrial immobility to the ATP supply in the NMJ

Topaz Altman, Danielle Geller, Elisabeth Kleeblatt, Tal Gradus-Perry, Eran Perlson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is the largest, most-complex synapse in the human body. Motor neuron (MN) diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), specifically target MNs and the NMJs. However, little is known about the reasons for MN-selective neuronal and synaptic vulnerability in MN diseases. Here, utilizing a compartmental microfluidic in vitro co-culture system, we provide a possible explanation for why the NMJ, other than its unusual dimensions, differs from other synapses. By using live-imaging techniques, we discovered that cultured MNs display higher axonal and synaptic mitochondrial immobility compared with sympathetic neurons (SNs), leading to a profound enrichment of mitochondria only in the MN NMJ. Furthermore, by employing a synaptic ATP sensor, we show that mitochondrial respiration is the key contributor to ATP production in MN NMJs but not in SN synapses. Taken together, our data suggest that mitochondrial localization underlies the unique and specific qualities of MN NMJs. Our findings shed light on the role of mitochondria in MN and NMJ maintenance, and possibly indicate how mitochondria may serve as a source for selective MN vulnerability in neurodegenerative diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjcs234492
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Volume132
Issue number23
DOIs
StatePublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Axonal transport
  • Mitochondria
  • Motor neuron
  • Neuromuscular junction
  • Sympathetic neuron
  • Synaptic ATP

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