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Neurochem Int. 2000 Apr;36(4-5):451-9.

Mitochondrial malic enzyme activity is much higher in mitochondria from cortical synaptic terminals compared with mitochondria from primary cultures of cortical neurons or cerebellar granule cells.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore 21201, USA.


Most of the malic enzyme activity in the brain is found in the mitochondria. This isozyme may have a key role in the pyruvate recycling pathway which utilizes dicarboxylic acids and substrates such as glutamine to provide pyruvate to maintain TCA cycle activity when glucose and lactate are low. In the present study we determined the activity and kinetics of malic enzyme in two subfractions of mitochondria isolated from cortical synaptic terminals, as well as the activity and kinetics in mitochondria isolated from primary cultures of cortical neurons and cerebellar granule cells. The synaptic mitochondrial fractions had very high mitochondrial malic enzyme (mME) activity with a Km and a Vmax of 0.37 mM and 32.6 nmol/min/mg protein and 0.29 mM and 22.4 nmol/min mg protein, for the SM2 and SM1 fractions, respectively. The Km and Vmax for malic enzyme activity in mitochondria isolated from cortical neurons was 0.10 mM and 1.4 nmol/min/mg protein and from cerebellar granule cells was 0.16 mM and 5.2 nmol/min/mg protein. These data show that mME activity is highly enriched in cortical synaptic mitochondria compared to mitochondria from cultured cortical neurons. The activity of mME in cerebellar granule cells is of the same magnitude as astrocyte mitochondria. The extremely high activity of mME in synaptic mitochondria is consistent with a role for mME in the pyruvate recycling pathway, and a function in maintaining the intramitochondrial reduced glutathione in synaptic terminals.

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