New quantitative approach reveals heterogeneity in mitochondrial structure-function relations in tumor-initiating cells

J Cell Sci. 2019 May 2;132(9):jcs230755. doi: 10.1242/jcs.230755.


Steady-state mitochondrial structure or morphology is primarily maintained by a balance of opposing fission and fusion events between individual mitochondria, which is collectively referred to as mitochondrial dynamics. The details of the bidirectional relationship between the status of mitochondrial dynamics (structure) and energetics (function) require methods to integrate these mitochondrial aspects. To study the quantitative relationship between the status of mitochondrial dynamics (fission, fusion, matrix continuity and diameter) and energetics (ATP and redox), we have developed an analytical approach called mito-SinCe2 After validating and providing proof of principle, we applied mito-SinCe2 on ovarian tumor-initiating cells (ovTICs). Mito-SinCe2 analyses led to the hypothesis that mitochondria-dependent ovTICs interconvert between three states, that have distinct relationships between mitochondrial energetics and dynamics. Interestingly, fusion and ATP increase linearly with each other only once a certain level of fusion is attained. Moreover, mitochondrial dynamics status changes linearly with ATP or with redox, but not simultaneously with both. Furthermore, mito-SinCe2 analyses can potentially predict new quantitative features of the opposing fission versus fusion relationship and classify cells into functional classes based on their mito-SinCe2 states.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.

Keywords: Method; Microscopy; Mitochondrial ATP; Mitochondrial fission and fusion; Mitochondrial redox; Ovarian tumor-initiating cells; Single cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics / physiology*
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Adenosine Triphosphate