Synaptic mitochondria are more susceptible to Ca2+ overload than nonsynaptic mitochondria

Maile R. Brown, Patrick G. Sullivan, James W. Geddes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

233 Scopus citations


Mitochondria in nerve terminals are subjected to extensive Ca2+ fluxes and high energy demands, but the extent to which the synaptic mitochondria buffer Ca2+ is unclear. In this study, we identified a difference in the Ca2+ clearance ability of nonsynaptic versus synaptic mitochondrial populations enriched from rat cerebral cortex. Mitochondria were isolated using Percoll discontinuous gradients in combination with high pressure nitrogen cell disruption. Mitochondria in the nonsynaptic fraction originate from neurons and other cell types including glia, whereas mitochondria enriched from a synaptosomal fraction are predominantly neuronal and presynaptic in origin. There were no differences in respiration or initial Ca2+ loads between nonsynaptic and synaptic mitochondrial populations. Following both bolus and infusion Ca2+ addition, nonsynaptic mitochondria were able to accumulate significantly more exogenously added Ca2+ than the synaptic mitochondria before undergoing mitochondrial permeability transition, observed as a loss in mitochondrial membrane potential and decreased Ca2+ uptake. The limited ability of synaptic mitochondria to accumulate Ca2+ could result from several factors including a primary function of ATP production to support the high energy demand of presynaptic terminals, their relative isolation in comparison with the threads or clusters of mitochondria found in the soma of neurons and glia, or the older age and increased exposure to oxidative damage of synaptic versus nonsynaptic mitochondria. By more readily undergoing permeability transition, synaptic mitochondria may initiate neuron death in response to insults that elevate synaptic levels of intracellular Ca2+, consistent with the early degeneration of distal axon segments in neurodegenerative disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11658-11668
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Apr 28 2006

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Synaptic mitochondria are more susceptible to Ca2+ overload than nonsynaptic mitochondria'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this