Mitochondria are essential organelles found in virtually all eukaryotic cells that play key roles in a variety of cellular processes. Mitochondria show a striking heterogeneity in their number, location, and shape in many different cell types. Although the dynamic nature of mitochondria has been known for decades, the molecules and mechanisms that mediate these processes are largely unknown. Recently, several laboratories have isolated and analyzed mutants in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae defective in mitochondrial fusion and division, in the segregation of mitochondria to daughter cells, and in the establishment and maintenance of mitochondrial shape. These studies have identified several proteins that appear to mediate different aspects of mitochondrial morphogenesis. Although it is clear that many additional components have yet to be identified, some of the newly discovered proteins raise intriguing possibilities for how the processes of mitochondrial division, fusion, and segregation occur. Below we summarize our current understanding of the molecules known to be required for yeast mitochondrial dynamics.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.