Study of endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria interactions by in situ proximity ligation assay in fixed cells

Emily Tubbs, Jennifer Rieusset

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (SciVal)


Structural interactions between the endoplasmic reticular (ER) and mitochondrial membranes, in domains known as mitochondria-associated membranes (MAM), are crucial hubs for cellular signaling and cell fate. Particularly, these inter-organelle contact sites allow the transfer of calcium from the ER to mitochondria through the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC)/glucose-regulated protein 75 (GRP75)/inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate receptor (IP3R) calcium channeling complex. While this subcellular compartment is under intense investigation in both physiological and pathological conditions, no simple and sensitive method exists to quantify the endogenous amount of ER-mitochondria contact in cells. Similarly, MAMs are highly dynamic structures, and there is no suitable approach to follow modifications of ER-mitochondria interactions without protein overexpression. Here, we report an optimized protocol based on the use of an in situ proximity ligation assay to visualize and quantify endogenous ER-mitochondria interactions in fixed cells by using the close proximity between proteins of the outer mitochondrial membrane (VDAC1) and of the ER membrane (IP3R1) at the MAM interface. Similar in situ proximity ligation experiments can also be performed with the GRP75/IP3R1 and cyclophilin D/IP3R1 pairs of antibodies. This assay provides several advantages over other imaging procedures, as it is highly specific, sensitive, and suitable to multiple-condition testing. Therefore, the use of this in situ proximity ligation assay should be helpful to better understand the physiological regulations of ER-mitochondria interactions, as well as their role in pathological contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere54899
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number118
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Dec 10

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Cell and Molecular Biology


  • Endoplasmic reticulum
  • Immunofluorescence
  • In situ proximity ligation assay
  • IP3R
  • Issue 118
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitochondria-associated membranes
  • Molecular biology
  • VDAC


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