A team of biologists led by UNIGE and UNIL has discovered that blocking mitochondrial pyruvate metabolism activates neural stem cells and augments the generation of new neurons in adult mice.
Authors: Francesco Petrelli, Valentina Scandella, Sylvie Montessuit, Nicola Zamboni, Jean-Claude Martinou & Marlen Knobloch
Cellular metabolism is important for adult neural stem/progenitor cell (NSPC) behavior. However, its role in the transition from quiescence to proliferation is not fully understood. We here show that the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) plays a crucial and unexpected part in this process. MPC transports pyruvate into mitochondria, linking cytosolic glycolysis to mitochondrial tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) and oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). Despite its metabolic key function, the role of MPC in NSPCs has not been addressed. We show that quiescent NSPCs have an active mitochondrial metabolism and express high levels of MPC. Pharmacological MPC inhibition increases aspartate and triggers NSPC activation. Furthermore, genetic Mpc-ablation in vitro and in vivo also activates NSPCs, which differentiate into mature neurons, leading to overall increased hippocampal neurogenesis in adult and aged mice. These findings highlight the importance of metabolism for NSPC regulation and identify an important pathway through which mitochondrial pyruvate import controls NSPC quiescence and activation.