Absolute Quantification of Matrix Metabolites Reveals the Dynamics of Mitochondrial Metabolism

Cell. 2016 Aug 25;166(5):1324-1337.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2016.07.040.


Mitochondria house metabolic pathways that impact most aspects of cellular physiology. While metabolite profiling by mass spectrometry is widely applied at the whole-cell level, it is not routinely possible to measure the concentrations of small molecules in mammalian organelles. We describe a method for the rapid and specific isolation of mitochondria and use it in tandem with a database of predicted mitochondrial metabolites ("MITObolome") to measure the matrix concentrations of more than 100 metabolites across various states of respiratory chain (RC) function. Disruption of the RC reveals extensive compartmentalization of mitochondrial metabolism and signatures unique to the inhibition of each RC complex. Pyruvate enables the proliferation of RC-deficient cells but has surprisingly limited effects on matrix contents. Interestingly, despite failing to restore matrix NADH/NAD balance, pyruvate does increase aspartate, likely through the exchange of matrix glutamate for cytosolic aspartate. We demonstrate the value of mitochondrial metabolite profiling and describe a strategy applicable to other organelles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Electron Transport / genetics
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways*
  • Metabolome*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Pyruvic Acid / metabolism
  • Pyruvic Acid / pharmacology


  • Pyruvic Acid