Mitophagy and Quality Control Mechanisms in Mitochondrial Maintenance

Curr Biol. 2018 Feb 19;28(4):R170-R185. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.01.004.


The maintenance of a healthy and functional mitochondrial network is critical during development as well as throughout life in the response to physiological adaptations and stress conditions. Owing to their role in energy production, mitochondria are exposed to high levels of reactive oxygen species, making them particularly vulnerable to mitochondrial DNA mutations and protein misfolding. Given that mitochondria are formed from proteins encoded by both nuclear and mitochondrial genomes, an additional layer of complexity is inherent in the coordination of protein synthesis and the mitochondrial import of nuclear-encoded proteins. For these reasons, mitochondria have evolved multiple systems of quality control to ensure that the requisite number of functional mitochondria are present to meet the demands of the cell. These pathways work to eliminate damaged mitochondrial proteins or parts of the mitochondrial network by mitophagy and renew components by adding protein and lipids through biogenesis, collectively resulting in mitochondrial turnover. Mitochondrial quality control mechanisms are multi-tiered, operating at the protein, organelle and cell levels. Herein, we discuss mitophagy in different physiological contexts and then relate it to other quality control pathways, including the unfolded protein response, shedding of vesicles, proteolysis, and degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Understanding how these pathways contribute to the maintenance of mitochondrial homeostasis could provide insights into the development of targeted treatments when these systems fail in disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / physiology
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Mitophagy / physiology*
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / physiology
  • Proteolysis
  • Ubiquitin / physiology
  • Unfolded Protein Response / physiology


  • Ubiquitin
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex