Altered function of mitochondrial respiratory chain in brain cells is related to many neurodegenerative diseases. NADH Dehydrogenase (Ubiquinone) Fe-S protein 4 (Ndufs4) is one of the subunits of mitochondrial complex I and its mutation in human is associated with Leigh syndrome. However, the molecular biological role of Ndufs4 in neuronal function is poorly understood. In this study, upon Ndufs4 expression confirmation in NeuN-positive neurons, and GFAP-positive astrocytes in WT mouse hippocampus, we found significant decrease of mitochondrial respiration in Ndufs4-KO mouse hippocampus. Although there was no change in the number of NeuN positive neurons in Ndufs4-KO hippocampus, the expression of synaptophysin, a presynaptic protein, was significantly decreased. To investigate the detailed mechanism, we silenced Ndufs4 in Neuro-2a cells and we observed shorter neurite lengths with decreased expression of synaptophysin. Furthermore, western blot analysis for phosphorylated extracellular regulated kinase (pERK) revealed that Ndufs4 silencing decreases the activity of ERK signalling. These results suggest that Ndufs4-modulated mitochondrial activity may be involved in neuroplasticity via regulating synaptophysin expression.
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