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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Nano-positioning and tubulin conformation contribute to axonal transport regulation of mitochondria along microtubules
V. Van Steenbergen, F. Lavoie-Cardinal, Y. Kazwiny, M. Decet, T. Martens, P. Verstreken, W. Boesmans, P. De Koninck, P. Vanden Berghe
Axonal Transport, Mitochondria, Tubulin
Correct spatiotemporal distribution of organelles and vesicles is crucial for healthy cell functioning and is regulated by intracellular transport mechanisms. Controlled transport of bulky mitochondria is especially important in polarized cells such as neurons that rely on these organelles to locally produce energy and buffer calcium. Mitochondrial transport requires and depends on microtubules which fill much of the available axonal space. How mitochondrial transport is affected by their position within the microtubule bundles is not known. Here, we found that anterograde transport, driven by kinesin motors, is susceptible to the molecular conformation of tubulin both in vitro and in vivo. Anterograde velocities negatively correlate with the density of elongated tubulin dimers, similar to GTP-tubulin, that are more straight and rigid. The impact of the tubulin conformation depends primarily on where a mitochondrion is positioned, either within or at the rim of microtubule bundle. Increasing elongated tubulin levels lowers the number of motile anterograde mitochondria within the microtubule bundle and increases anterograde transport speed at the microtubule bundle rim. We demonstrate that the increased kinesin step processivity on microtubules consisting of elongated dimers underlies increased mitochondrial dynamics. Our work indicates that the molecular conformation of tubulin controls mitochondrial motility and as such locally regulates the distribution of mitochondria along axons.