Reminiscent of bacterial quorum sensing, mammalian mitochondria participate in inter-organelle communication. However, physical structures that enhance or enable interactions between mitochondria have not been defined. Here we report that adjacent mitochondria exhibit coordination of inner mitochondrial membrane cristae at inter-mitochondrial junctions (IMJs). These electron-dense structures are conserved across species, resistant to genetic disruption of cristae organization, dynamically modulated by mitochondrial bioenergetics, independent of known inter-mitochondrial tethering proteins mitofusins and rapidly induced by the stable rapprochement of organelles via inducible synthetic linker technology. At the associated junctions, the cristae of adjacent mitochondria form parallel arrays perpendicular to the IMJ, consistent with a role in electrochemical coupling. These IMJs and associated cristae arrays may provide the structural basis to enhance the propagation of intracellular bioenergetic and apoptotic waves through mitochondrial networks within cells.
Mammalian mitochondria are capable of inter-organelle communication, but connections between mitochondria have not been defined. Here, Picard et al. report the presence of inter-mitochondrial junctions, electron-dense regions with coordinated inner membrane cristae that do not depend on mitofusins for their formation.