The relevance of mitochondrial membrane topology to mitochondrial function

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Feb;1762(2):140-7. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2005.07.001. Epub 2005 Jul 18.


This review summarizes recent findings from electron tomography about the three-dimensional shape of mitochondrial membranes and its possible influence on a range of mitochondrial functions. The inner membrane invaginations called cristae are pleomorphic, typically connected by narrow tubular junctions of variable length to the inner boundary membrane. This design may restrict intra-mitochondrial diffusion of metabolites such as ADP, and of soluble proteins such as cytochrome c. Tomographic images of a variety of mitochondria suggest that inner membrane topology reflects a balance between membrane fusion and fission. Proteins that can affect cristae morphology include tBid, which triggers cytochrome c release in apoptosis, and the dynamin-like protein Mgm1, involved in inter-mitochondrial membrane fusion. In frozen-hydrated rat-liver mitochondria, the space between the inner and outer membranes contains 10-15 nm particles that may represent macromolecular complexes involved in activities that span the two membranes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / chemistry
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism*