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Mitochondrion. 2014 Nov;19 Pt A:113-23. doi: 10.1016/j.mito.2014.06.005. Epub 2014 Jun 23.

Why to compare absolute numbers of mitochondria.

Author information

1
Institute of Molecular Toxicology and Pharmacology, Helmholtz Center Munich, German Research Center for Environmental Health, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany.
2
Research Unit Analytical Pathology-Institute of Pathology, Helmholtz Center Munich, German Research Center for Environmental Health, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany.
3
Institute of Molecular Toxicology and Pharmacology, Helmholtz Center Munich, German Research Center for Environmental Health, D-85764 Neuherberg, Germany. Electronic address: zischka@helmholtz-muenchen.de.

Abstract

Prompted by pronounced structural differences between rat liver and rat hepatocellular carcinoma mitochondria, we suspected these mitochondrial populations to differ massively in their molecular composition. Aiming to reveal these mitochondrial differences, we came across the issue on how to normalize such comparisons and decided to focus on the absolute number of mitochondria. To this end, fluorescently stained mitochondria were quantified by flow cytometry. For rat liver mitochondria, this approach resulted in mitochondrial protein contents comparable to earlier reports using alternative methods. We determined similar protein contents for rat liver, heart and kidney mitochondria. In contrast, however, lower protein contents were determined for rat brain mitochondria and for mitochondria from the rat hepatocellular carcinoma cell line McA 7777. This result challenges mitochondrial comparisons that rely on equal protein amounts as a typical normalization method. Exemplarily, we therefore compared the activity and susceptibility toward inhibition of complex II of rat liver and hepatocellular carcinoma mitochondria and obtained significant discrepancies by either normalizing to protein amount or to absolute mitochondrial number. Importantly, the latter normalization, in contrast to the former, demonstrated a lower complex II activity and higher susceptibility toward inhibition in hepatocellular carcinoma mitochondria compared to liver mitochondria. These findings demonstrate that solely normalizing to protein amount may obscure essential molecular differences between mitochondrial populations.

KEYWORDS:

Metabolic shift; Mitochondria; Mitochondrial number; Mitochondrial protein content; Respiratory complex II

PMID:
24969531
DOI:
10.1016/j.mito.2014.06.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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