Over the past years, knowledge and evidence about the existence of crosstalks between cellular organelles and their potential effects on survival or cell death have been constantly growing. More recently, evidence accumulated showing an intimate relationship between endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and mitochondria. These close contacts not only establish extensive physical links allowing exchange of lipids and calcium but they can also coordinate pathways involved in cell life and death. It is now obvious that ER dysfunction/stress and unfolded protein response (UPR) as well as mitochondria play major roles in apoptosis. However, while the effects of major ER stress on cell death have been largely studied and reviewed, it becomes more and more evident that cells might regularly deal with sublethal ER stress, a condition that does not necessarily lead to cell death but might affect the function/activity of other organelles such as mitochondria. In this review, we will particularly focus on these new, interesting and intriguing metabolic and morphological events that occur during the early adaptative phase of the ER stress, before the onset of cell death, and that remain largely unknown. Relevance and implication of these mitochondrial changes in response to ER stress conditions for human diseases such as type II diabetes and Alzheimer's disease will also be considered.
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