Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Experimental Botany


Open Access


Mitochondria form highly dynamic populations in the cells of plants (and almost all eukaryotes). The characteristics and benefits of this collective behaviour, and how it is influenced by nuclear features, remain to be fully elucidated. Here, we use a recently developed quantitative approach to reveal and analyse the physical and collective ‘social’ dynamics of mitochondria in an Arabidopsis msh1 mutant where the organelle DNA maintenance machinery is compromised. We use a newly created line combining the msh1 mutant with mitochondrially targeted green fluorescent protein (GFP), and characterize mitochondrial dynamics with a combination of single-cell time-lapse microscopy, computational tracking, and network analysis. The collective physical behaviour of msh1 mitochondria is altered from that of the wild type in several ways: mitochondria become less evenly spread, and networks of inter-mitochondrial encounters become more connected, with greater potential efficiency for inter-organelle exchange—reflecting a potential compensatory mechanism for the genetic challenge to the mitochondrial DNA population, supporting more inter-organelle exchange. We find that these changes are similar to those observed in friendly, where mitochondrial dynamics are altered by a physical perturbation, suggesting that this shift to higher connectivity may reflect a general response to mitochondrial challenges, where physical dynamics of mitochondria may be altered to control the genetic structure of the mtDNA population.