Mitochondria are critical for neuronal function due to the high demand of ATP in these cell types. During Drosophila development, neuroblasts in the larval brain divide asymmetrically to populate the adult central nervous system. While many of the proteins responsible for maintaining neuroblast cell fate and asymmetric cell divisions are known, little is know about the role of metabolism and mitochondria in neuroblast division and maintenance. The gene clueless (clu) has been previously shown to be important for mitochondrial function. clu mutant adults have severely shortened lifespans and are highly uncoordinated. Part of their lack of coordination is due to defects in muscle, however, in this study we have identified high levels of Clu expression in larval neuroblasts and other regions of the dividing larval brain. We show while mitochondria in clu mutant neuroblasts are mislocalized during the cell cycle, surprisingly, overall brain morphology appears to be normal. This is explained by our observation that clu mutant larvae have normal levels of ATP and do not suffer oxidative damage, in sharp contrast to clu mutant adults. Mutations in two other genes encoding mitochondrial proteins, technical knockout and stress sensitive B, do not cause neuroblast mitochondrial mislocalization, even though technical knockout mutant larvae suffer oxidative damage. These results suggest Clu functions upstream of electron transport and oxidative phosphorylation, has a role in suppressing oxidative damage in the cell, and that lack of Clu's specific function causes mitochondria to mislocalize. These results also support the previous observation that larval development relies on aerobic glycolysis, rather than oxidative phosphorylation. Thus Clu's role in mitochondrial function is not critical during larval development, but is important for pupae and adults.
Sen, A., Damm, V. T., & Cox, R. T. (2013). Drosophila Clueless Is Highly Expressed in Larval Neuroblasts, Affects Mitochondrial Localization and Suppresses Mitochondrial Oxidative Damage. PLoS ONE, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0054283