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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 7;111(1):486-91. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1311310110. Epub 2013 Dec 2.

Presynaptic mitochondrial morphology in monkey prefrontal cortex correlates with working memory and is improved with estrogen treatment.

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Fishberg Department of Neuroscience, Kastor Neurobiology of Aging Laboratories, Friedman Brain Institute, Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY 10029.


Humans and nonhuman primates are vulnerable to age- and menopause-related decline in working memory, a cognitive function reliant on the energy-demanding recurrent excitation of neurons within Brodmann's Area 46 of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). Here, we tested the hypothesis that the number and morphology (straight, curved, or donut-shaped) of mitochondria in dlPFC presynaptic boutons are altered with aging and menopause in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) and that these metrics correlate with delayed response (DR) accuracy, a well-characterized measure of dlPFC-dependent working memory. Although presynaptic bouton density or size was not significantly different across groups distinguished by age or menses status, DR accuracy correlated positively with the number of total and straight mitochondria per dlPFC bouton. In contrast, DR accuracy correlated inversely with the frequency of boutons containing donut-shaped mitochondria, which exhibited smaller active zone areas and fewer docked synaptic vesicles than those with straight or curved mitochondria. We then examined the effects of estrogen administration to test whether a treatment known to improve working memory influences mitochondrial morphology. Aged ovariectomized monkeys treated with vehicle displayed significant working memory impairment and a concomitant 44% increase in presynaptic donut-shaped mitochondria, both of which were reversed with cyclic estradiol treatment. Together, our data suggest that hormone replacement therapy may benefit cognitive aging, in part by promoting mitochondrial and synaptic health in the dlPFC.


axonal bouton; cognition; toroidal mitochondria

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