As mitochondria, is the cell’s power stations; release quick bursts of heat by unleashing the power storing in an internal proton battery; the researchers finding. Better understanding of this process could point to new targets for treating obesity and cancer. Producing heat is part of the mitochondria’s role in the center of metabolism activity.
It needs to produce the energy currency that’s used for the activities in the cell, and heat is one of the byproducts, in most cases. But there is a mechanism that can ramp this process up to produce more heat when the body needs it. That’s what fat cells do when they’re in need of heat when the body’s temperature goes down.
Center of metabolism activity
But to better understand this ramping up of heat output; the researchers developed a tiny, fast-read thermometer probe to internally measure temperature inside of living cells. The mechanical design proved challenging. It had to be long enough to reach a cell under a microscope; but small enough in diameter not to harm the cell or disrupt its internal processes.
Think about how we take temperature with a probe under our tongue. We are essentially doing the same, but inside a single cell. Emeritus of molecular and integrative physiology at Illinois, to test the probe in a mitochondria rich strain of neurons. They induced the mitochondria to produce heat using methods established by previous work, but they were startled by the very fast changes in temperature that the probe was able to measure.
Battery powered by protons
The gold standard for measuring has been with fluorescence, but it is too slow to see this short, high burst of heat. Just with a simple probe measuring at high speed, we have demonstrated that we can find things that other methods have missed. That increased heat output from the mitochondria came from increased breaking down of glucose, but the heat spikes that Sinha’s group measured were too high.
The researchers determined that the energy spike was consistent with the discharging of a cellular battery powered by protons. They verified this by inducing similar temperature spikes with special molecules that open up protein channels in the mitochondria’s membrane. In the mitochondria, one part of the glucose metabolism reaction stores some of the energy as a proton battery. It pushes all the protons to one side of a membrane, which creates an energy store.