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Mitochondrial morphology, topology, and membrane interactions in skeletal muscle: a quantitative three-dimensional electron microscopy study

Lookup NU author(s): Martin Picard, Dr Kathryn White, Emeritus Professor Doug Turnbull


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Dynamic remodeling of mitochondrial morphology through membrane dynamics are linked to changes in mitochondrial and cellular function. Although mitochondrial membrane fusion/fission events are frequent in cell culture models, whether mitochondrial membranes dynamically interact in postmitotic muscle fibers in vivo remains unclear. Furthermore, a quantitative assessment of mitochondrial morphology in intact muscle is lacking. Here, using electron microscopy (EM), we provide evidence of interacting membranes from adjacent mitochondria in intact mouse skeletal muscle. Electron-dense mitochondrial contact sites consistent with events of outer mitochondrial membrane tethering are also described. These data suggest that mitochondrial membranes interact in vivo among mitochondria, possibly to induce morphology transitions, for kiss-and-run behavior, or other processes involving contact between mitochondrial membranes. Furthermore, a combination of freeze-fracture scanning EM and transmission EM in orthogonal planes was used to characterize and quantify mitochondrial morphology. Two subpopulations of mitochondria were studied: subsarcolemmal (SS) and intermyofibrillar (IMF), which exhibited significant differences in morphological descriptors, including form factor (means +/- SD for SS: 1.41 +/- 0.45 vs. IMF: 2.89 +/- 1.76, P < 0.01) and aspect ratio (1.97 +/- 0.83 vs. 3.63 +/- 2.13, P < 0.01) and circularity (0.75 +/- 0.16 vs. 0.45 +/- 0.22, P < 0.01) but not size (0.28 +/- 0.31 vs. 0.27 +/- 0.20 mu m(2)). Frequency distributions for mitochondrial size and morphological parameters were highly skewed, suggesting the presence of mechanisms to influence mitochondrial size and shape. In addition, physical continuities between SS and IMF mitochondria indicated mixing of both subpopulations. These data provide evidence that mitochondrial membranes interact in vivo in mouse skeletal muscle and that factors may be involved in regulating skeletal muscle mitochondrial morphology.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Picard M, White K, Turnbull DM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Applied Physiology

Year: 2013

Volume: 114

Issue: 2

Pages: 161-171

Print publication date: 01/10/2012

ISSN (print): 8750-7587

ISSN (electronic): 1522-1601

Publisher: American Physiological Society


DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01096.2012


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