Mitochondria in health, aging and diseases: the epigenetic perspective

Biogerontology. 2015 Oct;16(5):569-85. doi: 10.1007/s10522-015-9562-3. Epub 2015 Feb 25.


The rate/quality of human aging and the development/progression of diseases depend on a complex interplay among genetics, epigenetics and environment. In this scenario, mitochondrial function (or dysfunction) and mitochondrial DNA have emerged as major players. This is mainly due to their crucial role in energetic balance, in modulating epigenetic programs and in influencing cell stress response. Moreover, it is also emerging the existence of epigenetic changes in mitochondrial DNA and of non coding mitochondrial RNAs which, together with the nuclear ones, play regulatory roles in numerous human phenotypes. In this review we will provide an overview on "mitochondrial epigenetics" state of the art, by summarizing the involvement of mitochondrial function and of mitochondria-nucleus communication in regulating nuclear epigenome, as well as the key aspects of the epigenetic marks related to mitochondrial DNA. Despite the limited data available in the literature to date, mainly due to the novelty of the topic, the intriguing interplay of the mitochondrial epigenetic changes in both physiological and pathological conditions will also be presented.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aging / genetics*
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Epigenomics / methods
  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria* / metabolism
  • Mitochondria* / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Risk Factors


  • DNA, Mitochondrial