Repository logo

Premature synaptic mitochondrial dysfunction in the hippocampus during aging contributes to memory loss.

Published version



Change log


Olesen, Margrethe A 
Torres, Angie K 
Jara, Claudia 
Murphy, Michael P 
Tapia-Rojas, Cheril 


Aging is a process characterized by cognitive impairment and mitochondrial dysfunction. In neurons, these organelles are classified as synaptic and non-synaptic mitochondria depending on their localization. Interestingly, synaptic mitochondria from the cerebral cortex accumulate more damage and are more sensitive to swelling than non-synaptic mitochondria. The hippocampus is fundamental for learning and memory, synaptic processes with high energy demand. However, it is unknown if functional differences are found in synaptic and non-synaptic hippocampal mitochondria; and whether this could contribute to memory loss during aging. In this study, we used 3, 6, 12 and 18 month-old (mo) mice to evaluate hippocampal memory and the function of both synaptic and non-synaptic mitochondria. Our results indicate that recognition memory is impaired from 12mo, whereas spatial memory is impaired at 18mo. This was accompanied by a differential function of synaptic and non-synaptic mitochondria. Interestingly, we observed premature dysfunction of synaptic mitochondria at 12mo, indicated by increased ROS generation, reduced ATP production and higher sensitivity to calcium overload, an effect that is not observed in non-synaptic mitochondria. In addition, at 18mo both mitochondrial populations showed bioenergetic defects, but synaptic mitochondria were prone to swelling than non-synaptic mitochondria. Finally, we treated 2, 11, and 17mo mice with MitoQ or Curcumin (Cc) for 5 weeks, to determine if the prevention of synaptic mitochondrial dysfunction could attenuate memory loss. Our results indicate that reducing synaptic mitochondrial dysfunction is sufficient to decrease age-associated cognitive impairment. In conclusion, our results indicate that age-related alterations in ATP produced by synaptic mitochondria are correlated with decreases in spatial and object recognition memory and propose that the maintenance of functional synaptic mitochondria is critical to prevent memory loss during aging.



Aging, Hippocampus, Memory, Mitochondria, Non-synaptic, Synaptic, Aging, Animals, Hippocampus, Memory, Memory Disorders, Mice, Mitochondria

Journal Title

Redox Biol

Conference Name

Journal ISSN


Volume Title



Elsevier BV
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00015/3)
Wellcome Trust (110159/Z/15/Z)
Medical Research Council (MC_U105663142)