Mitochondria: from cell death executioners to regulators of cell differentiation

Trends Cell Biol. 2014 Dec;24(12):761-70. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2014.08.005. Epub 2014 Sep 2.


Most, if not all mitochondrial functions, including adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP) production and regulation of apoptosis and Ca(2+) homeostasis, are inextricably linked to mitochondrial morphology and dynamics, a process controlled by a family of GTP-dependent dynamin related 'mitochondria-shaping' proteins. Mitochondrial fusion and fission directly influence mitochondrial metabolism, apoptotic and necrotic cell death, autophagy, muscular atrophy and cell migration. In this review, we discuss the recent evidence indicating that mitochondrial dynamics influence complex signaling pathways, affect gene expression and define cell differentiation. These findings extend the importance of mitochondria to developmental biology, far beyond their mere bioenergetic role.

Keywords: Ca(2+); DRP1; MFN; Notch signaling; OPA1; cardiomyocyte; differentiation; hair follicle; heart; mitochondrial dynamics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Autophagy / genetics
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Dynamics
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins