In the process of neurogenesis, neural progenitor cells (NPCs) cease dividing and differentiate into postmitotic neurons that grow dendrites and an axon, become excitable, and establish synapses with other neurons. Mitochondrial biogenesis and aerobic metabolism provide energy substrates required to support the differentiation, growth and synaptic activity of neurons. Mitochondria may also serve signaling functions and, in this regard, it was recently reported that mitochondria can generate rapid bursts of superoxide (superoxide flashes), the frequency of which changes in response to environmental conditions and signals including oxygen levels and Ca2+ fluxes. Here we show that the frequency of mitochondrial superoxide flashes increases as embryonic cerebral cortical neurons differentiate from NPCs, and provide evidence that the superoxide flashes serve a signaling function that is critical for the differentiation process. The superoxide flashes are mediated by mitochondrial permeability transition pore (mPTP) opening, and pharmacological inhibition of the mPTP suppresses neuronal differentiation. Moreover, superoxide flashes and neuronal differentiation are inhibited by scavenging of mitochondrial superoxide. Conversely, manipulations that increase superoxide flash frequency accelerate neuronal differentiation. Our findings reveal a regulatory role for mitochondrial superoxide flashes, mediated by mPTP opening, in neuronal differentiation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)