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Neurons are highly polarised, complex and incredibly energy intensive cells, and their demand for ATP during neuronal transmission is primarily met by oxidative phosphorylation by mitochondria. Thus, maintaining the health and efficient function of mitochondria is vital for neuronal integrity, viability and synaptic activity. Mitochondria do not exist in isolation, but constantly undergo cycles of fusion and fission, and are actively transported around the neuron to sites of high energy demand. Intriguingly, axonal and dendritic mitochondria exhibit different morphologies. In axons mitochondria are small and sparse whereas in dendrites they are larger and more densely packed. The transport mechanisms and mitochondrial dynamics that underlie these differences, and their functional implications, have been the focus of concerted investigation. Moreover, it is now clear that deficiencies in mitochondrial dynamics can be a primary factor in many neurodegenerative diseases. Here, we review the role that mitochondrial dynamics play in neuronal function, how these processes support synaptic transmission and how mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated in neurodegenerative disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Neuronal signal

Publication Date





DRP1, fission, fusion, mitochondria, mitochondrial dynamics, post translational modification