Neuroscience

Mitochondrial dysfunctions in neurodegeneration

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Project leader

Francesca Maltecca

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Mitochondria are multifaceted organelles central for various cellular processes that include ATP production, intracellular calcium signaling, generation of reactive oxygen species, regulation of metabolism and apoptosis. Neurons critically depend on mitochondrial function to establish membrane excitability and to execute the complex processes of neurotransmission and plasticity. Due to their complex cyto-architecture, neurons face a great challenge in maintaining and distributing mitochondria throughout their arbors for the entire duration of their lives. Maintenance of a healthy mitochondrial population implies efficient protein quality control, fusion and fission events, long and short range movements and the clearance of damaged proteins and organelles.

Research activity

The focus of our research is to understand how disturbances in each of these processes are implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders. Our studies involve both inherited neurodegenerative conditions, which are primarily mitochondrial, as well as neurodegenerative diseases whose pathogenesis is secondarily associated to mitochondrial deregulation. To this end we combine integrated approaches of molecular biology and neurobiology, which rely on already available mouse models and patient samples.