Proceedings of The Physiological Society

Mitochondria: Form and function (London, UK) (2017) Proc Physiol Soc 38, SA11

Research Symposium

The Mitochondria Reticulum of Muscle Cells

R. S. Balaban1

1. Division of Intramural Research, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, United States.


Recently both 3D high resolution and functional studies in muscle cells have revealed a tightly coupled mitochondria reticulum (MR) to rapidly distribute potential energy, in the form of the mitochondrial membrane potential (MMP), throughout skeletal muscle and heart cells. Herein the structural aspects of the MR are described using 3D Focused Ion Beam Scanning Electron Microscopy (FIB-SEM) and presented in muscle cells. A large portion of the MR conductivity is dependent on direct mitochondrial matrix continuity while in some regions of the muscle the connectivity is proposed to occur via poorly characterized electron dense regions (EDR) between adjacent mitochondria. Using a photo-activated mitochondrial uncoupler to regionally perturb the MMP, we have demonstrated that large regions of the MR are electrically coupled via a shared matrix as well as EDR structures between the mitochondria. In murine skeletal muscle cells a large fraction of the mitochondrial volume is located in regions close to capillary indentations in the cell structure. These embedded capillaries are surrounded by large pools of mitochondria near the plasma membrane that have narrow tubes which run along the I-Bands (I-Band Mitochondria Segments (IBMS)) deep into the muscle cell. It has been proposed that these IBMS serve to distribute the MMP from the large sub-sarcolemma mitochondrial pool to the more central ATP-consuming myofibril region of the muscle cell. Consistent with this notion was the observation that there is a 3-fold enhancement of MMP generating oxidative phosphorylation complex in comparison to MMP utilizing ATP synthesis enzymes in the periphery of the muscle cell when compared to central regions near the muscle ATPase activity. In cardiac cells, no IBMS exist and the coupling is exclusively through large mitochondria structures and numerous EDR connections. These data are consistent with a mitochondria reticulum in muscle cells that couples large numbers of mitochondria together providing a rapid and uniform potential energy source throughout the cell to support ATP production. (NHLBI Division of Intramural Research).

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements