Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Naia 2021 - Neuronal cell-based HT screen for enahncesr of mito fn reveals luteolin.pdf (6.79 MB)
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Neuronal cell-based high-throughput screen for enhancers of mitochondrial function reveals luteolin as a modulator of mitochondria-endoplasmic reticulum coupling

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posted on 2021-10-08, 08:35 authored by Luana Naia, Catarina M Pinho, Giacomo Dentoni, Jianping Liu, Nuno Santos Leal, Duarte MS Ferreira, Bernadette Schreiner, Riccardo Filadi, Lígia Fão, Niamh ConnollyNiamh Connolly, Pontus Forsell, Gunnar Nordvall, Makoto Shimozawa, Elisa Greotti, Emy Basso, Pierre Theurey, Anna Gioran, Alvin Joselin, Marie Arsenian-Henriksson, Per Nilsson, A Cristina Rego, Jorge L Ruas, David Park, Daniele Bano, Paolo Pizzo, Jochen PrehnJochen Prehn, Maria Ankarcrona

Background: Mitochondrial dysfunction is a common feature of aging, neurodegeneration, and metabolic diseases. Hence, mitotherapeutics may be valuable disease modifiers for a large number of conditions. In this study, we have set up a large-scale screening platform for mitochondrial-based modulators with promising therapeutic potential.

Results: Using differentiated human neuroblastoma cells, we screened 1200 FDA-approved compounds and identified 61 molecules that significantly increased cellular ATP without any cytotoxic effect. Following dose response curve-dependent selection, we identified the flavonoid luteolin as a primary hit. Further validation in neuronal models indicated that luteolin increased mitochondrial respiration in primary neurons, despite not affecting mitochondrial mass, structure, or mitochondria-derived reactive oxygen species. However, we found that luteolin increased contacts between mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum (ER), contributing to increased mitochondrial calcium (Ca2+) and Ca2+-dependent pyruvate dehydrogenase activity. This signaling pathway likely contributed to the observed effect of luteolin on enhanced mitochondrial complexes I and II activities. Importantly, we observed that increased mitochondrial functions were dependent on the activity of ER Ca2+-releasing channels inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptors (IP3Rs) both in neurons and in isolated synaptosomes. Additionally, luteolin treatment improved mitochondrial and locomotory activities in primary neurons and Caenorhabditis elegans expressing an expanded polyglutamine tract of the huntingtin protein.

Conclusion: We provide a new screening platform for drug discovery validated in vitro and ex vivo. In addition, we describe a novel mechanism through which luteolin modulates mitochondrial activity in neuronal models with potential therapeutic validity for treatment of a variety of human diseases.


EU Joint Programme - Neurodegenerative Disease Research

Swedish Research Council (Dnr 2018-03102)

Swedish Brain Foundation (Hjärnfonden)

Swedish Alzheimer Foundation (Alzheimerfonden)

European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement no. 676144 (Synaptic Dysfunction in Alzheimer Disease, SyDAD)

Gun och Bertil Stohnes

Gamla Tjänarinnor Foundations (Stockholm)

Olle Engkvist Foundation (Stockholm)

Hållstens forskningsstiftelse

University of Padova, Italy (SID 2019)

Italian Ministry of University and Scientific Research (PRIN2017XA5J5N)

Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Padua e Rovigo (CARIPARO Foundation) Excellence project 2017 (2018/113)

UNIPD Funds for Research Equipment-2015

Euro Bioimaging Project Roadmap/ESFRI from European Commission

Science Foundation Ireland (14/JPND/B3077 and SFI FutureNeuro Research Centre 16/RC/3948, co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund and FutureNeuro industry partners)

Karolinska Institute



The original articles is available at

Published Citation

Naia L. et al. Neuronal cell-based high-throughput screen for enhancers of mitochondrial function reveals luteolin as a modulator of mitochondria-endoplasmic reticulum coupling. BMC Biol. 2021;19(1):57.

Publication Date

24 March 2021

PubMed ID



  • Physiology and Medical Physics

Research Area

  • Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders


BioMed Central


  • Published Version (Version of Record)