Mitochondrial synapses: intracellular communication and signal integration

Trends Neurosci. 2015 Aug;38(8):468-74. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2015.06.001. Epub 2015 Jul 15.


Communication is a central theme in biology. Consequently, specialized structures have evolved to permit rapid communication among cells, tissues, organs, and physiological systems, thus enhancing the overall function and adaptation of the organism. A prime example is the neuronal synapse. In the brain, synaptic communication establishes neuronal networks with the capacity to integrate, process, and store information, giving rise to complex output signals capable of orchestrating functions across the organism. At the intracellular level, discoveries now reveal the existence of 'mitochondrial synapses' establishing mitochondrial networks, with defined chromatin-modifying mitochondrial output signals capable of orchestrating gene expression across the genome. These discoveries raise the possibility that in addition to their role as powerhouses and neuromodulators, mitochondria behave as intracellular signal-processing networks.

Keywords: biological networks; epigenetics; inter-mitochondrial junctions (IMJs); mitochondria; mitochondrial synapse; synaptic function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Synapses / physiology*


  • Neurotransmitter Agents