Dynamics of mitochondrial morphology in healthy cells and during apoptosis

Cell Death Differ. 2003 Aug;10(8):870-80. doi: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4401260.


Mitochondria exist as dynamic networks that often change shape and subcellular distribution. The number and morphology of mitochondria within a cell are controlled by precisely regulated rates of organelle fusion and fission. Recent reports have described dramatic alterations in mitochondrial morphology during the early stages of apoptotic cell death, a fragmentation of the network and the remodeling of the cristae. Surprisingly, proteins discovered to control mitochondrial morphology appear to also participate in apoptosis and proteins associated with the regulation of apoptosis have been shown to affect mitochondrial ultrastructure. In this review the recent progress in understanding the mechanisms governing mitochondrial morphology and the latest advances connecting the regulation of mitochondrial morphology with programmed cell death are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • COS Cells
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism
  • Guanosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / physiology
  • Membrane Fusion / physiology
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / ultrastructure
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Guanosine Triphosphate
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases