Mitochondrial shape changes: orchestrating cell pathophysiology

EMBO Rep. 2010 Sep;11(9):678-84. doi: 10.1038/embor.2010.115. Epub 2010 Aug 20.


Mitochondria are highly dynamic organelles, the location, size and distribution of which are controlled by a family of proteins that modulate mitochondrial fusion and fission. Recent evidence indicates that mitochondrial morphology is crucial for cell physiology, as changes in mitochondrial shape have been linked to neurodegeneration, calcium signalling, lifespan and cell death. Because immune cells contain few mitochondria, these organelles have been considered to have only a marginal role in this physiological context-which is conversely well characterized from the point of view of signalling. Nevertheless, accumulating evidence shows that mitochondrial dynamics have an impact on the migration and activation of immune cells and on the innate immune response. Here, we discuss the roles of mitochondrial dynamics in cell pathophysiology and consider how studying dynamics in the context of the immune system could increase our knowledge about the role of dynamics in key signalling cascades.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Immune System / physiology
  • Membrane Fusion / physiology
  • Mitochondria* / physiology
  • Mitochondria* / ultrastructure
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Mitochondrial Proteins