Cell Rep. 2023 Feb 15;42(2):112115. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2023.112115. Online ahead of print.
Mitochondria are vital organelles that require sophisticated homeostatic mechanisms for maintenance. Intercellular transfer of damaged mitochondria is a recently identified strategy broadly used to improve cellular health and viability. Here, we investigate mitochondrial homeostasis in the vertebrate cone photoreceptor, the specialized neuron that initiates our daytime and color vision. We find a generalizable response to mitochondrial stress that leads to loss of cristae, displacement of damaged mitochondria from their normal cellular location, initiation of degradation, and transfer to Müller glia cells, a key non-neuronal support cell in the retina. Our findings show transmitophagy from cones to Müller glia as a response to mitochondrial damage. Intercellular transfer of damaged mitochondria represents an outsourcing mechanism that photoreceptors use to support their specialized function.