The systems biology of mitochondrial fission and fusion and implications for disease and aging

Biogerontology. 2014 Feb;15(1):1-12. doi: 10.1007/s10522-013-9474-z.


Mitochondria organize themselves as dynamic populations within a cell, by undergoing continuous cycles of fission and fusion. The spatio-temporal distribution and abundance of mitochondria determines the cell’s energy budget and is thus intimately linked to the cell’s response to environmental stimuli during aging. The dynamic balance of mitochondrial fission and fusion can be studied in terms of antagonistic subpopulations that regulate the mitochondrial responses in space and time. The dynamic nature of these processes motivates mathematical modelling and the simulation of such complex process. In several neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases the dynamic balance of fission and fusion is disturbed. However, how this dynamics plays a role in the progression of diseases is largely unclear. Fission and fusion help mitochondria to regulate cellular energy (ATP) levels, and minimize accumulation of harmful oxidized material called reactive oxygen species which accelerate mutations in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) during aging. We discuss how systems biology approaches can be used to investigate the mechanisms controlling the fission–fusion dynamics under two categories: dissecting the design of its molecular regulatory motifs, and understanding complex mitochondrial responses through their population level interactions. This will help us to understand how different regulatory mechanisms regulate the ATP and mutation (mtDNA) landscape of mitochondria to a variety of environmental stimuli in order to maintain their function during aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cellular Microenvironment / physiology
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Disease / etiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics / physiology*
  • Systems Biology*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial