Mitochondrial function in pluripotent stem cells and cellular reprogramming

Gerontology. 2014;60(2):174-82. doi: 10.1159/000355050. Epub 2013 Nov 19.


Mitochondria are organelles playing pivotal roles in a range of diverse cellular functions, from energy generation to redox homeostasis and apoptosis regulation. Their loss of functionality may indeed contribute to the development of aging and age-related neurodegenerative disorders. Recently, mitochondria have been shown to exhibit peculiar features in pluripotent stem cells (PSCs). Moreover, an extensive restructuring of mitochondria has been observed during the process of cellular reprogramming, i.e. the conversion of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). These transformation events impact mitochondrial number, morphology, activity, cellular metabolism, and mtDNA integrity. PSCs retain the capability to self-renew indefinitely and to give rise to virtually any cell type of the body and thus hold great promise in medical research. Understanding the mitochondrial properties of PSCs, and how to modulate them, may thus help to shed light on the features of stemness and possibly increase our knowledge on cellular identity and differentiation pathways. Here, we review these recent findings and discuss their implications in the context of stem cell biology, aging research, and regenerative medicine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Transdifferentiation / genetics
  • Cell Transdifferentiation / physiology
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Rejuvenation / physiology


  • DNA, Mitochondrial