The AMPK-related kinase NUAK1 controls cortical axons branching by locally modulating mitochondrial metabolic functions

Nat Commun. 2024 Mar 21;15(1):2487. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-46146-6.


The cellular mechanisms underlying axonal morphogenesis are essential to the formation of functional neuronal networks. We previously identified the autism-linked kinase NUAK1 as a central regulator of axon branching through the control of mitochondria trafficking. However, (1) the relationship between mitochondrial position, function and axon branching and (2) the downstream effectors whereby NUAK1 regulates axon branching remain unknown. Here, we report that mitochondria recruitment to synaptic boutons supports collateral branches stabilization rather than formation in mouse cortical neurons. NUAK1 deficiency significantly impairs mitochondrial metabolism and axonal ATP concentration, and upregulation of mitochondrial function is sufficient to rescue axonal branching in NUAK1 null neurons in vitro and in vivo. Finally, we found that NUAK1 regulates axon branching through the mitochondria-targeted microprotein BRAWNIN. Our results demonstrate that NUAK1 exerts a dual function during axon branching through its ability to control mitochondrial distribution and metabolic activity.

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases*
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases* / genetics
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism


  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinase Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases
  • NUAK1 protein, mouse