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Cereb Cortex. 2018 Oct 1;28(10):3673-3684. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhy159.

A Quantitative Study on the Distribution of Mitochondria in the Neuropil of the Juvenile Rat Somatosensory Cortex.

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Laboratorio Cajal de Circuitos Corticales, Centro de Tecnología Biomédica, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Pozuelo de Alarcón, Madrid, Spain.
Departamento de Neurobiología Funcional y de Sistemas, Instituto Cajal, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, Spain.
Departamento de Arquitectura y Tecnología de Sistemas Informáticos, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain.


Mitochondria play a key role in energy production and calcium buffering, among many other functions. They provide most of the energy required by neurons, and they are transported along axons and dendrites to the regions of higher energy demands. We have used focused ion beam milling and scanning electron microscopy (FIB/SEM) to obtain stacks of serial sections from the somatosensory cortex of the juvenile rat. We have estimated the volume fraction occupied by mitochondria and their distribution between dendritic, axonal, and nonsynaptic processes. The volume fraction of mitochondria increased from layer I (4.59%) to reach its maximum in layer IV (7.74%) and decreased to its minimum in layer VI (4.03%). On average, 44% of mitochondrial volume was located in dendrites, 15% in axons and 41% in nonsynaptic elements. Given that dendrites, axons, and nonsynaptic elements occupied 38%, 23%, and 39% of the neuropil, respectively, it can be concluded that dendrites are proportionally richer in mitochondria with respect to axons, supporting the notion that most energy consumption takes place at the postsynaptic side. We also found a positive correlation between the volume fraction of mitochondria located in neuronal processes and the density of synapses.

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