Mitochondria are the powerhouses of immunity

Nat Immunol. 2017 Apr 18;18(5):488-498. doi: 10.1038/ni.3704.


Recent evidence indicates that mitochondria lie at the heart of immunity. Mitochondrial DNA acts as a danger-associated molecular pattern (DAMP), and the mitochondrial outer membrane is a platform for signaling molecules such as MAVS in RIG-I signaling, and for the NLRP3 inflammasome. Mitochondrial biogenesis, fusion and fission have roles in aspects of immune-cell activation. Most important, Krebs cycle intermediates such as succinate, fumarate and citrate engage in processes related to immunity and inflammation, in both innate and adaptive immune cells. These discoveries are revealing mitochondrial targets that could potentially be exploited for therapeutic gain in inflammation and cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity*
  • Animals
  • Citric Acid Cycle / immunology*
  • DEAD Box Protein 58 / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Immunomodulation
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Mitochondria / immunology*
  • Mitochondrial Membranes / immunology*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / metabolism
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • Inflammasomes
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition
  • RIGI protein, human
  • DEAD Box Protein 58