AbstractMagnesium being the lightest metal on earth used as a structural material, the design of the chemistry and the microstructures of Mg-based alloys has been developed over the years to always further ameliorate their mechanical properties. A supplementary option consists in adding ceramic nanoparticles to such alloys to design Mg-based metal matrix nanocomposites (MMNCs) displaying improvement of both strength and ductility. In practice however, careful attention is required to understand the fundamental mechanisms at the heart of the enhancement of these properties as they still remain quite uncertain and subjected to misleading interpretations. Here, high temperature (350 °C) strain rate jump tests in compression reveal an enhancement of 20–60% of the mechanical properties when AlN nano-particles are added to the Elektron21 alloy (Mg-2.8Nd-1.2Gd-0.4Zr-0.3Zn, in wt%). At the same time, nano-indentation investigations suppose that forest or Orowan strengthening, due to particles-dislocations interactions, is unlikely to occur. Instead, using complementary microstructural characterization techniques (scanning electron macroscopy, energy dispersive spectroscopy as well as micro- and nano-tomography), we show that AlN nano-particles physically and chemically interact with the alloy and modify the overall microstructure, in particular the intermetallic phase, at the origin of the improvement of the mechanical properties.