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Mechanism underlying the intimate relationship between muscle and mitochondria revealed

03 May 2021

Muscle Fly Through

Tiny factories pumping cellular energy, mitochondria are found in huge numbers in active tissues like muscles – but how do they meet different energy needs around the body? Here researchers examine a fruit fly’s leg muscle, using electron microscopy and computer modelling, first to pick out the contours of muscle molecules, then to reconstruct their 3D shape, highlighting individual filaments in different colours. Flying through, we see bean-shaped mitochondria reaching out towards the filaments they supply. Researchers discovered a specific protein, called spalt, helps to coordinate muscle building with growing networks of mitochondria during development, a bit like laying out a power supply for a booming city. This association could give new insights into how our own muscles work, and how our energy needs are met by different patterns of mitochondria.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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