Giant mitochondria in the retina cone inner segments of shrews of genus Sorex (insectivora, soricidae)

Sara Lluch, María José López-Fuster, Jacint Ventura

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14 Citations (Scopus)


The retinas of three species of shrews (Sorex araneus, S. coronatus, and S. minutus) were analyzed. Two kinds of photoreceptors were identified according to (among other characteristics) the traits of the mitochondria of their inner segments. The rod inner segments contained several round or oval mitochondria distributed longitudinally inside the ellipsoid. The cone inner segment showed a few mitochondria, which we classified as megamitochondria (maximum length = 4.22 μm in S. araneus, 5.68 μm in S. coronatus, and 2.42 μm in S. minutus). An analysis of serial thin sections in S. coronatus showed that these large organelles occurred in the apical and central portions of the ellipsoid. In the peripheral and basal regions of the ellipsoid, megamitochondria were frequently accompanied by smaller mitochondria. The giant mitochondria were irregular in form and densely packed, and a reduced cytosol was observed between each mitochondria. In general, they exhibited an electron-dense matrix and a complex system of cristae, which varied in length and array. In mammalian retina, megamitochondria have only been described in the ellipsoid of the tree shrews Tupaia glis and T. belangeri, two diurnal Scandentia with a rich-cone retina. In general terms, Sorex megamitochondria are morphologically very similar to those reported for Tupaia, especially in their arrangement in the cone ellipsoid. However, they differ in the orientation of the cristae. We propose that the ellipsoid of Sorex may serve two functions: as a source of energy for receptor cells, and as a device for improving the cone outer segment optics. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-490
JournalAnatomical Record - Part A Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2003


  • Cone inner segment
  • Ellipsoid
  • Megamitochondria
  • Photoreceptors
  • Retina
  • Sorex


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