Calcium Channels in Mitochondria Appears Critical To Capacity For Memory Interview with:

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair Department of Neuroscience Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

Dr. Ron L. Davis

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair
Department of Neuroscience
Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: While calcium’s importance for our bones and teeth is well known, its role in neurons—in particular, its effects on processes such as learning and memory—has been less well defined. Our new study, published in the journal Cell Reports, offers new insights how calcium in mitochondria—the powerhouse of all cells—can impact the development of the brain and adult cognition.

Specifically, we show in fruit flies, a widely used model system, that blocking a channel that brings calcium to the mitochondria called “mitochondrial calcium uniporter” causes memory impairment but does not alter learning capacity. That surprised us – we thought they wouldn’t be able to learn at all. This is important because defects in the same calcium channel function have been shown to be associated with intellectual disability in humans. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The new study shows that mitochondrial calcium entry during development is necessary to establish the neuronal competency for supporting adult memory. We also found evidence that inhibiting mitochondrial calcium uniporter function led to a decrease in the content of synaptic vesicles (miniscule sacs within the cell where various neurotransmitters are stored) and an increase in the length of axons (the slender filaments of neurons). What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: While these structural problems were clearly observed, what they mean in terms of neuronal development remains tantalizingly unclear. The discovery of a developmental role for the mitochondrial calcium uniporter complex in regulating memory in adult flies is especially intriguing and deserves more exploration. Thank you for your contribution to the community.


Inhibiting the Mitochondrial Calcium Uniporter during Development Impairs Memory in Adult Drosophila.
Drago I, Davis RL.
Cell Rep. 2016 Sep 6;16(10):2763-76. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.08.017. Epub 2016 Aug 25.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on September 19, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD