Mitochondria are highly dynamic organelles. Frequent cycles of fusion and fission adapt the morphology of the mitochondrial compartment to the metabolic needs of the cell. Mitochondrial fusion is particularly important in respiratory active cells. It allows the spreading of metabolites, enzymes, and mitochondrial gene products throughout the entire mitochondrial compartment. This serves to optimize mitochondrial function and counteracts the accumulation of mitochondrial mutations during aging. Fragmented mitochondria are frequently found in resting cells, and mitochondrial fission plays an important role in the removal of damaged organelles by autophagy. Thus, mitochondrial fusion and fission both contribute to maintenance of mitochondrial function and optimize bioenergetic capacity. Multiple signalling pathways regulate the machinery of mitochondrial dynamics to adapt the shape of the mitochondrial compartment to the metabolic conditions of the cell. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: 17th European Bioenergetics Conference (EBEC 2012).
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