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J Neurosci. 2016 Jul 13;36(28):7375-91. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0633-16.2016.

Compartmentalized Regulation of Parkin-Mediated Mitochondrial Quality Control in the Drosophila Nervous System In Vivo.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.
Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907


In neurons, the normal distribution and selective removal of mitochondria are considered essential for maintaining the functions of the large asymmetric cell and its diverse compartments. Parkin, a E3 ubiquitin ligase associated with familial Parkinson's disease, has been implicated in mitochondrial dynamics and removal in cells including neurons. However, it is not clear how Parkin functions in mitochondrial turnover in vivo, or whether Parkin-dependent events of the mitochondrial life cycle occur in all neuronal compartments. Here, using the live Drosophila nervous system, we investigated the involvement of Parkin in mitochondrial dynamics, distribution, morphology, and removal. Contrary to our expectations, we found that Parkin-deficient animals do not accumulate senescent mitochondria in their motor axons or neuromuscular junctions; instead, they contain far fewer axonal mitochondria, and these displayed normal motility behavior, morphology, and metabolic state. However, the loss of Parkin did produce abnormal tubular and reticular mitochondria restricted to the motor cell bodies. In addition, in contrast to drug-treated, immortalized cells in vitro, mature motor neurons rarely displayed Parkin-dependent mitophagy. These data indicate that the cell body is the focus of Parkin-dependent mitochondrial quality control in neurons, and argue that a selection process allows only healthy mitochondria to pass from cell bodies to axons, perhaps to limit the impact of mitochondrial dysfunction.


Parkin has been proposed to police mitochondrial fidelity by binding to dysfunctional mitochondria via PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog)-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) and targeting them for autophagic degradation. However, it is unknown whether and how the PINK1/Parkin pathway regulates the mitochondrial life cycle in neurons in vivo Using Drosophila motor neurons, we show that parkin disruption generates an abnormal mitochondrial network in cell bodies in vivo and reduces the number of axonal mitochondria without producing any defects in their axonal transport, morphology, or metabolic state. Furthermore, while cultured neurons display Parkin-dependent axonal mitophagy, we find this is vanishingly rare in vivo under normal physiological conditions. Thus, both the spatial distribution and mechanism of mitochondrial quality control in vivo differ substantially from those observed in vitro.


Drosophila; Parkin; autophagy; axonal transport; mitochondria; mitophagy

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