Mitochondrial morphology in mitophagy and macroautophagy

Ligia C Gomes, Luca Scorrano
Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 2013, 1833 (1): 205-12
Mitochondria are critical organelles in energy conversion, metabolism and amplification of signalling. They are however also major sources of reactive oxygen species and when dysfunctional they consume cytosolic ATP. Maintenance of a cohort of healthy mitochondria is therefore crucial for the overall cell fitness. Superfluous or damaged organelles are mainly degraded by mitophagy, a selective process of autophagy. In response to the triggers of mitophagy, mitochondria fragment: this morphological change accompanies the exposure of "eat-me" signals, resulting in the engulfment of the organelle by the autophagosomes. Conversely, during macroautophagy mitochondria fuse to be spared from degradation and to sustain ATP production in times of limited nutrient availability. Thus, mitochondrial shape defines different types of autophagy, highlighting the interplay between morphology of the organelle and complex cellular responses. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Mitochondrial dynamics and physiology.

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