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Dendritic mitoflash as a putative signal for stabilizing long-term synaptic plasticity
Nature Communications 8:31 Jun 2017

Fu, Zhong-Xiao; Tan, Xiao; Fang, Huaqiang; Lau, Pak-Ming; Wang, Xianhua; Cheng, Heping; Bi, Guo-Qiang

Mitochondrial flashes (mitoflashes) are recently discovered excitable mitochondrial events in many cell types. Here we investigate their occurrence in the context of structural long-term potentiation (sLTP) at hippocampal synapses. At dendritic spines stimulated by electric pulses, glycine, or targeted glutamate uncaging, induction of sLTP is associated with a phasic occurrence of local, quantized mitochondrial activity in the form of one or a few mitoflashes, over a 30-min window. Low-dose nigericin or photoactivation that elicits mitoflashes stabilizes otherwise short-term spine enlargement into sLTP. Meanwhile, scavengers of reactive oxygen species suppress mitoflashes while blocking sLTP. With targeted photoactivation of mitoflashes, we further show that the stabilization of sLTP is effective within the critical 30-min time-window and a spatial extent of ~2 μm, similar to that of local diffusive reactive oxygen species. These findings indicate a potential signaling role of dendritic mitochondria in synaptic plasticity, and provide new insights into the cellular function of mitoflashes.

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