Synaptic plasticity in the adult brain is believed to represent the cellular
mechanisms of learning and memory. Mitochondria are involved in the regulation
of the complex processes of synaptic plasticity. This paper reviews the current
knowledge on the regulatory roles of mitochondria in the function and plasticity of
synapses and the implications of mitochondrial dysfunctions in synaptic transmission.
First, the importance of mitochondrial distribution and motility for maintenance and
strengthening of dendritic spines, but also for new spines/synapses formation is
presented. Secondly, the major mitochondrial functions as energy supplier and
calcium buffer organelles are considered as possible explanation for their essential
and regulatory roles in neuronal plasticity processes. Thirdly, the effects of synaptic
potentiation on mitochondrial gene expression are discussed. And finally, the relation between age-related
alterations in synaptic plasticity and mitochondrial dysfunctions is considered. It appears that memory
loss and neurodegeneration during aging are related to mitochondrial (dys)function. Although, it is clear
that mitochondria are essential for synaptic plasticity, further studies are indicated to scrutinize the
intracellular and molecular processes that regulate the functions of mitochondria in synaptic plasticity.
Keywords: Aging, ATP, calcium, learning and memory, long-term potentiation, mitochondria, synaptic plasticity.
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