A method has been developed whereby a fraction of rat brain mitochondria (synaptic mitochondria) was isolated from synaptosomes. This brain mitochondrial fraction was compared with the fraction of “free” brain mitochondria (non-synaptic) isolated by the method of Clark & Nicklas (1970). (J. Biol. Chem. 245, 4724-4731). Both mitochondrial fractions are shown to be relatively pure, metabolically active and well coupled. 2. The oxidation of a number of substrates by synaptic and non-synaptic mitochondria was studied and compared. Of the substrates studied, pyruvate plus malate was oxidized most rapidly by both mitochondrial populations. However, the non-synaptic mitochondria oxidized glutamate plus malate almost twice as rapidly as the synaptic mitochondria. 3. The activities of certain tricarboxylic acid-cycle and related enzymes in synaptic and non-synaptic mitochondria were determined. Citrate synthase (EC 4.1.3.7), isocitrate dehydrogenase (EC 1.1.1.41) and malate dehydrogenase (EC 1.1.1.37) activities were similar in both fractions, but pyruvate dehydrogenase (EC 1.2.4.1) activity in non-synaptic mitochondria was higher than in synaptic mitochondria and glutamate dehydrogenase (EC 1.4.1.3) activity in non-synaptic mitochondria was lower than that in synaptic mitochondria. 4. Comparison of synaptic and non-synaptic mitochondria by rate-zonal separation confirmed the distinct identity of the two mitochondrial populations. The non-synaptic mitochondria had higher buoyant density and evidence was obtained to suggest that the synaptic mitochondria might be heterogeneous. 5. The results are also discussed in the light of the suggested connection between the heterogeneity of brain mitochondria and metabolic compartmentation.

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