The role of mitochondria in apoptosis

BMB Rep. 2008 Jan 31;41(1):11-22. doi: 10.5483/bmbrep.2008.41.1.011.


Apoptosis (programmed cell death) is a cellular self-destruction mechanism that is essential for a variety of biological events, such as developmental sculpturing, tissue homeostasis, and the removal of unwanted cells. Mitochondria play a crucial role in regulating cell death. Ca2+ has long been recognized as a participant in apoptotic pathways. Mitochondria are known to modulate and synchronize Ca2+ signaling. Massive accumulation of Ca2+ in the mitochondria leads to apoptosis. The Ca2+ dynamics of ER and mitochondria appear to be modulated by the Bcl-2 family proteins, key factors involved in apoptosis. The number and morphology of mitochondria are precisely controlled through mitochondrial fusion and fission process by numerous mitochondria-shaping proteins. Mitochondrial fission accompanies apoptotic cell death and appears to be important for progression of the apoptotic pathway. Here, we highlight and discuss the role of mitochondrial calcium handling and mitochondrial fusion and fission machinery in apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Calcium