Bioenergetic origins of complexity and disease

Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2011:76:1-16. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2011.76.010462. Epub 2011 Dec 22.


The organizing power of energy flow is hypothesized to be the origin of biological complexity and its decline the basis of "complex" diseases and aging. Energy flow through organic systems creates nucleic acids, which store information, and the annual accumulation of information generates today's complexity. Energy flow through our bodies is mediated by the mitochondria, symbiotic bacteria whose genomes encompass the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and more than 1000 nuclear genes. Inherited and/or epigenomic variation of the mitochondrial genome determines our initial energetic capacity, but the age-related accumulation of somatic cell mtDNA mutations further erodes energy flow, leading to disease. This bioenergetic perspective on disease provides a unifying pathophysiological and genetic mechanism for neuropsychiatric diseases such as Alzheimer and Parkinson Disease, metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, autoimmune diseases, aging, and cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / genetics
  • Animals
  • Cellular Microenvironment / genetics
  • Disease*
  • Energy Metabolism* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics