Axonal mitochondrial transport and potential are correlated

Kyle E. Miller, Michael P. Sheetz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

431 Scopus citations


Disruption of axonal transport leads to a disorganized distribution of mitochondria and other organelles and is thought to be responsible for some types of neuronal disease. The reason for bidirectional transport of mitochondria is unknown. We have developed and applied a set of statistical methods and found that axonal mitochondria are uniformly distributed. Analysis of fast axonal transport showed that the uniform distribution arose from the clustering of the stopping events of fast axonal transport in the middle of the gaps between stationary mitochondria. To test whether transport was correlated with ATP production, we added metabolic inhibitors locally by micropipette. Whereas applying CCCP (a mitochondrial uncoupler) blocked mitochondrial transport, as has been previously reported, treatment with antimycin (an inhibitor of electron transport at complex III) caused increases in retrograde mitochondrial transport. Application of 2-deoxyglucose did not decrease transport compared with the mannitol control. To determine whether mitochondrial transport was correlated with mitochondrial potential, we stained the neurons with the mitochondrial potential-sensing dye JC-1. We found that ∼90% of mitochondria with high potential were transported towards the growth cone and ∼80% of mitochondria with low potential were transported towards the cell body. These experiments show for the first time that a uniform mitochondrial distribution is generated by local regulation of the stopping events of fast mitochondrial transport, and that the direction of mitochondrial transport is correlated with mitochondrial potential. These results have implications for axonal clogging, autophagy, apoptosis and Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2791-2804
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 1 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • 2-Deoxyglucose
  • Antimycin
  • JC-1
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitochondrial potential
  • Statistical analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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