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The Use of the Patch-Clamp Technique to Study the Thermogenic Capacity of Mitochondria.

  • Bertholet, Ambre M1
  • 1 Department of Physiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles; [email protected]
Published Article
Journal of Visualized Experiments
MyJoVE Corporation
Publication Date
May 03, 2021
DOI: 10.3791/62618
PMID: 33999016


Mitochondrial thermogenesis (also known as mitochondrial uncoupling) is one of the most promising targets for increasing energy expenditure to combat metabolic syndrome. Thermogenic tissues such as brown and beige fats develop highly specialized mitochondria for heat production. Mitochondria of other tissues, which primarily produce ATP, also convert up to 25% of the total mitochondrial energy production into heat and can, therefore, have a considerable impact on the physiology of the whole body. Mitochondrial thermogenesis is not only essential for maintaining the body temperature, but also prevents diet-induced obesity and reduces the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) to protect cells from oxidative damage. Since mitochondrial thermogenesis is a key regulator of cellular metabolism, a mechanistic understanding of this fundamental process will help in the development of therapeutic strategies to combat many pathologies associated with mitochondrial dysfunction. Importantly, the precise molecular mechanisms that control acute activation of thermogenesis in mitochondria are poorly defined. This lack of information is largely due to a dearth of methods for the direct measurement of uncoupling proteins. The recent development of patch-clamp methodology applied to mitochondria enabled, for the first time, the direct study of the phenomenon at the origin of mitochondrial thermogenesis, H+ leak through the IMM, and the first biophysical characterization of mitochondrial transporters responsible for it, the uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), specific of brown and beige fats, and the ADP/ATP transporter (AAC) for all other tissues. This unique approach will provide new insights into the mechanisms that control H+ leak and mitochondrial thermogenesis and how they can be targeted to combat metabolic syndrome. This paper describes the patch-clamp methodology applied to mitochondria to study their thermogenic capacity by directly measuring H+ currents through the IMM.

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