Yousefi R, Fornasiero EF, Cyganek L, Jakobs S, Rizzoli SO, Rehling P, Pacheu-Grau D
Mitochondria possess a small genome that codes for core subunits of the oxidative phosphorylation system, and whose expression is essential for energy production. Information on the regulation and spatial organization of mitochondrial gene expression in the cellular context has been difficult to obtain. Here we addressed this by devising an imaging approach to analyze mitochondrial translation, by following the incorporation of clickable non-canonical amino acids. We applied this method to multiple cell types, including hippocampal neurons, where we found ample evidence for mitochondrial translation in both dendrites and axons. Translation levels were surprisingly heterogeneous, were typically stronger in axons, and were independent of their distance from the cell soma, where mitochondria presumably descent from. Presynaptic mitochondrial translation correlated with local synaptic activity, and blocking mitochondria translation reduced synaptic function. Overall, these findings demonstrate that mitochondrial gene expression in neurons is intimately linked to neuronal function.