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J Cell Biol. 2012 May 14;197(4):535-51. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201110034. Epub 2012 May 7.

Mitochondrial division ensures the survival of postmitotic neurons by suppressing oxidative damage.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


Mitochondria divide and fuse continuously, and the balance between these two processes regulates mitochondrial shape. Alterations in mitochondrial dynamics are associated with neurodegenerative diseases. Here we investigate the physiological and cellular functions of mitochondrial division in postmitotic neurons using in vivo and in vitro gene knockout for the mitochondrial division protein Drp1. When mouse Drp1 was deleted in postmitotic Purkinje cells in the cerebellum, mitochondrial tubules elongated due to excess fusion, became large spheres due to oxidative damage, accumulated ubiquitin and mitophagy markers, and lost respiratory function, leading to neurodegeneration. Ubiquitination of mitochondria was independent of the E3 ubiquitin ligase parkin in Purkinje cells lacking Drp1. Treatment with antioxidants rescued mitochondrial swelling and cell death in Drp1KO Purkinje cells. Moreover, hydrogen peroxide converted elongated tubules into large spheres in Drp1KO fibroblasts. Our findings suggest that mitochondrial division serves as a quality control mechanism to suppress oxidative damage and thus promote neuronal survival.

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