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Quantitative analysis of spontaneous mitochondrial depolarizations

O'Reilly, C.M. and Fogarty, K.E. and Drummond, R.M. and Tuft, R.A. and Walsh, J.V. (2003) Quantitative analysis of spontaneous mitochondrial depolarizations. Biophysical Journal, 85 (5). pp. 3350-3357. ISSN 0006-3495

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Abstract

Spontaneous transient depolarizations in mitochondrial membrane potential ({Delta}{Psi}m), mitochondrial flickers, have been observed in isolated mitochondria and intact cells using the fluorescent probe, tetramethylrhodamine ethyl ester (TMRE). In theory, the ratio of [TMRE] in cytosol and mitochondrion allows {Delta}{Psi}m to be calculated with the Nernst equation, but this has proven difficult in practice due to fluorescence quenching and binding of dye to mitochondrial membranes. We developed a new method to determine the amplitude of flickers in terms of millivolts of depolarization. TMRE fluorescence was monitored using high-speed, high-sensitivity three-dimensional imaging to track individual mitochondria in freshly dissociated smooth muscle cells. Resting mitochondrial fluorescence, an exponential function of resting {Delta}{Psi}m, varied among mitochondria and was approximately normally distributed. Spontaneous changes in mitochondrial fluorescence, indicating depolarizations and repolarizations in {Delta}{Psi}m, were observed. The depolarizations were reversible and did not result in permanent depolarization of the mitochondria. The magnitude of the flickers ranged from <10 mV to >100 mV with a mean of 17.6 ± 1.0 mV (n = 360) and a distribution skewed to smaller values. Nearly all mitochondria flickered, and they did so independently of one another, indicating that mitochondria function as independent units in the myocytes employed here.