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Cell Metab. 2013 Dec 3;18(6):844-59. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2013.11.005.

Inflammation-induced alteration of astrocyte mitochondrial dynamics requires autophagy for mitochondrial network maintenance.

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Department for Life Quality Studies, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, Via Irnerio 48, 40126 Bologna, Italy; Adolf Butenandt Institute, Neurobiochemistry, Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Schillerstrasse 44, 80336 Munich, Germany. Electronic address:


Accumulating evidence suggests that changes in the metabolic signature of astrocytes underlie their response to neuroinflammation, but how proinflammatory stimuli induce these changes is poorly understood. By monitoring astrocytes following acute cortical injury, we identified a differential and region-specific remodeling of their mitochondrial network: while astrocytes within the penumbra of the lesion undergo mitochondrial elongation, those located in the core-the area invaded by proinflammatory cells-experience transient mitochondrial fragmentation. In brain slices, proinflammatory stimuli reproduced localized changes in mitochondrial dynamics, favoring fission over fusion. This effect was triggered by Drp1 phosphorylation and ultimately resulted in reduced respiratory capacity. Furthermore, maintenance of the mitochondrial architecture critically depended on the induction of autophagy. Deletion of Atg7, required for autophagosome formation, prevented the reestablishment of tubular mitochondria, leading to marked reactive oxygen species accumulation and cell death. Thus, our data reveal autophagy to be essential for regenerating astrocyte mitochondrial networks during inflammation.

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