Mitochondria are highly dynamic organelles of crucial importance to the proper functioning of neuronal, cardiac and other cell types dependent upon aerobic efficiency. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in numerous human conditions, to include cancer, metabolic diseases, neurodegeneration, diabetes, and aging. In recent years, mitochondrial turnover by macroautophagy (mitophagy) has captured the limelight, due in part to discoveries that genes linked to Parkinson disease regulate this quality control process. A rapidly growing literature is clarifying effector mechanisms that underlie the process of mitophagy; however, factors that regulate positive or negative cellular outcomes have been less studied. Here, we review the literature on two major pathways that together may determine cellular adaptation vs. cell death in response to mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy represent two opposing, but coordinated processes that determine mitochondrial content, structure, and function. Recent data indicate that the capacity to undergo mitochondrial biogenesis, which is dysregulated in disease states, may play a key role in determining cell survival following mitophagy-inducing injuries. The current literature on major pathways that regulate mitophagy and mitochondrial biogenesis is summarized, and mechanisms by which the interplay of these two processes may determine cell fate are discussed. We conclude that in primary neurons and other mitochondrially dependent cells, disruptions in any phase of the mitochondrial recycling process can contribute to cellular dysfunction and disease. Given the emerging importance of crosstalk among regulators of mitochondrial function, autophagy, and biogenesis, signaling pathways that coordinate these processes may contribute to therapeutic strategies that target or regulate mitochondrial turnover and regeneration.
Keywords: AMPK; LC3 interacting proteins; PGC-1alpha; PINK1; cell death; extracellular signal regulated protein kinase (ERK1/2); mitochondrial biogenesis; mitophagy; parkin.