Mitochondrial trafficking in neurons

Mitochondria play an essential role in neurone function. They provide the energy and metabolites needed to: (i) form and maintain the synapses (neural junctions) that exist between cells, (ii) remove or repair old/damaged components, and (iii) deliver new materials, most of which are encoded by nuclear genes1.

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The long and complex morphology of a neurone, combined with the high demand for energy at the periphery of the cell, makes the trafficking of mitochondria essential2. At any given moment, 10 to 40% of mitochondria are estimated to be in motion within the cell with half moving away from the cell body and half moving towards the cell body1.

In this video, neuronal mitochondria were stained using a fluorescent dye and then imaged for 10 mins with the 3D Cell Explorer-fluo at an acquisition frequency of 1 image every 10 secs. Mitochondria can be seen being trafficked along axons, dendrites and within the cell body. They are also present in dendritic growth cones (actin-supported extensions of developing neurites).

Sample courtesy of Vanessa Morais and Rita Soares, iMM institute Lisbon.


  1. Schwarz, T. L. Mitochondrial trafficking in neurons. Cold Spring Harb. Perspect. Med. 3, 1–16 (2013).
  2. Mandal, A. & Drerup, C. M. Axonal transport and mitochondrial function in neurons. Front. Cell. Neurosci. 13, 1–11 (2019).
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