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J Struct Biol. 2011 Jan;173(1):117-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2010.06.017. Epub 2010 Jun 25.

Mitochondrial configurations in peripheral nerve suggest differential ATP production.

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National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, Center for Research in Biological Systems, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0608, United States.


Physiological states of mitochondria often correlate with distinctive morphology. Electron microscopy and tomographic reconstruction were used to investigate the three-dimensional structure of axonal mitochondria and mitochondria in the surrounding Schwann cells of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), both in the vicinity of nodes of Ranvier and far from these nodes. Condensed mitochondria were found to be abundant in the axoplasm, but not in the Schwann cell. Uncharacteristic of the classical morphology of condensed mitochondria, the outer and inner boundary membranes are in close apposition and the crista junctions are narrow, consistent with their function as gates for the diffusion of macromolecules. There is also less cristae surface area and lower density of crista junctions in these mitochondria. The density of mitochondria was greater at the paranode-node-paranode (PNP) as was the crista junction opening, yet there were fewer cristae in these organelles compared to those in the internodal region. The greater density of condensed mitochondria in the PNS axoplasm and in particular at the PNP suggests a need for these organelles to operate at a high workload of ATP production.

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