Disruption of mitochondrial dynamics affects behaviour and lifespan in Caenorhabditis elegans

Joseph J. Byrne, Ming S. Soh, Gursimran Chandhok, Tarika Vijayaraghavan, Jean-Sébastien Teoh, Simon Crawford, Ansa E. Cobham, Nethmi M. B. Yapa, Christen K. Mirth, Brent Neumann

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Mitochondria are essential components of eukaryotic cells, carrying out critical physiological processes that include energy production and calcium buffering. Consequently, mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with a range of human diseases. Fundamental to their function is the ability to transition through fission and fusion states, which is regulated by several GTPases. Here, we have developed new methods for the non-subjective quantification of mitochondrial morphology in muscle and neuronal cells of Caenorhabditis elegans. Using these techniques, we uncover surprising tissue-specific differences in mitochondrial morphology when fusion or fission proteins are absent. From ultrastructural analysis, we reveal a novel role for the fusion protein FZO-1/mitofusin 2 in regulating the structure of the inner mitochondrial membrane. Moreover, we have determined the influence of the individual mitochondrial fission (DRP-1/DRP1) and fusion (FZO-1/mitofusin 1,2; EAT-3/OPA1) proteins on animal behaviour and lifespan. We show that loss of these mitochondrial fusion or fission regulators induced age-dependent and progressive deficits in animal movement, as well as in muscle and neuronal function. Our results reveal that disruption of fusion induces more profound defects than lack of fission on animal behaviour and tissue function, and imply that while fusion is required throughout life, fission is more important later in life likely to combat ageing-associated stressors. Furthermore, our data demonstrate that mitochondrial function is not strictly dependent on morphology, with no correlation found between morphological changes and behavioural defects. Surprisingly, we find that disruption of either mitochondrial fission or fusion significantly reduces median lifespan, but maximal lifespan is unchanged, demonstrating that mitochondrial dynamics play an important role in limiting variance in longevity across isogenic populations. Overall, our study provides important new insights into the central role of mitochondrial dynamics in maintaining organismal health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1967-1985
Number of pages19
JournalCellular and Molecular Life Sciences
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Caenorhabditis elegans
  • DRP-1
  • DRP1
  • EAT-3
  • FZO-1
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitochondrial dynamics
  • Mitofusin 1
  • Mitofusin 2
  • OPA1
  • Transmission electron microscopy

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