High OXPHOS efficiency in RA-FUdr-differentiated SH-SY5Y cells: involvement of cAMP signalling and respiratory supercomplexes

Sci Rep. 2024 Mar 28;14(1):7411. doi: 10.1038/s41598-024-57613-x.


Neurons are highly dependent on mitochondria to meet their bioenergetic needs and understanding the metabolic changes during the differentiation process is crucial in the neurodegeneration context. Several in vitro approaches have been developed to study neuronal differentiation and bioenergetic changes. The human SH-SY5Y cell line is a widely used cellular model and several differentiation protocols have been developed to induce a neuron-like phenotype including retinoic acid (RA) treatment. In this work we obtained a homogeneous functional population of neuron-like cells by a two-step differentiation protocol in which SH-SY5Y cells were treated with RA plus the mitotic inhibitor 2-deoxy-5-fluorouridine (FUdr). RA-FUdr treatment induced a neuronal phenotype characterized by increased expression of neuronal markers and electrical properties specific to excitable cells. In addition, the RA-FUdr differentiated cells showed an enrichment of long chain and unsaturated fatty acids (FA) in the acyl chain composition of cardiolipin (CL) and the bioenergetic analysis evidences a high coupled and maximal respiration associated with high mitochondrial ATP levels. Our results suggest that the observed high oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) capacity may be related to the activation of the cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) pathway and the assembly of respiratory supercomplexes (SCs), highlighting the change in mitochondrial phenotype during neuronal differentiation.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Floxuridine
  • Humans
  • Neuroblastoma* / metabolism
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Tretinoin* / metabolism
  • Tretinoin* / pharmacology


  • Tretinoin
  • Floxuridine