Mitochondria are essential for ensuring numerous fundamental physiological processes such as cellular energy, redox balance, modulation of Ca(2+) signaling and important biosynthetic pathways. They also govern the cell fate by participating in the apoptosis pathway. The mitochondrial shape, volume, number and distribution within the cells are strictly controlled. The regulation of these parameters has an impact on mitochondrial function, especially in the central nervous system, where trafficking of mitochondria is critical to their strategic intracellular distribution, presumably according to local energy demands. Thus, the maintenance of a healthy mitochondrial population is essential to avoid the impairment of the processes they regulate: for this purpose, cells have developed mechanisms involving a complex system of quality control to remove damaged mitochondria, or to renew them. Defects of these processes impair mitochondrial function and lead to disordered cell function, i.e., to a disease condition. Given the standard role of mitochondria in all cells, it might be expected that their dysfunction would give rise to similar defects in all tissues. However, damaged mitochondrial function has pleiotropic effects in multicellular organisms, resulting in diverse pathological conditions, ranging from cardiac and brain ischemia, to skeletal muscle myopathies to neurodegenerative diseases. In this review, we will focus on the relationship between mitochondrial (and cellular) derangements and Ca(2+) dysregulation in neurodegenerative diseases, emphasizing the evidence obtained in genetic models. Common patterns, that recognize the derangement of Ca(2+) and energy control as a causative factor, have been identified: advances in the understanding of the molecular regulation of Ca(2+) homeostasis, and on the ways in which it could become perturbed in neurological disorders, may lead to the development of therapeutic strategies that modulate neuronal Ca(2+) signaling.
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