Adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders are disabling and often fatal diseases of the nervous system whose underlying mechanisms of cell death remain unknown. Defects in mitochondrial respiration had previously been proposed to contribute to the occurrence of many, if not all, of the most common neurodegenerative disorders. However, the discovery of genes mutated in hereditary forms of these enigmatic diseases has additionally suggested defects in mitochondrial dynamics. Such disturbances can lead to changes in mitochondrial trafficking, in interorganellar communication, and in mitochondrial quality control. These new mechanisms by which mitochondria may also be linked to neurodegeneration will likely have far-reaching implications for our understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders.
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