The Living Dead: Mitochondria and Metabolic Arrest

IUBMB Life. 2018 Dec;70(12):1260-1266. doi: 10.1002/iub.1910. Epub 2018 Sep 19.


Mitochondria are not just the powerhouses of the cell; these 'end of function' organelles are crucial components of cellular physiology and influence many central metabolic and signaling pathways that support complex multicellular life. Not surprisingly, these organelles play vital roles in adaptations for extreme survival strategies including hibernation and freeze tolerance, both of which are united by requirements for a strong reduction and reprioritization of metabolic processes. To facilitate metabolic rate depression, adaptations of all aspects of mitochondrial function are required, including; energetics, physiology, abundance, gene regulation, and enzymatic controls. This review discusses these factors with a focus on the stress-specific nature of mitochondrial genes and transcriptional regulators, and processes including apoptosis and chaperone protein responses. We also analyze the regulation of glutamate dehydrogenase and pyruvate dehydrogenase, central mitochondrial enzymes involved in coordinating the shifts in metabolic fuel use associated with extreme survival strategies. Finally, an emphasis is given to the novel mitochondrial research areas of microRNAs, peptides, epigenetics, and gaseous mediators and their potential roles in facilitating hypometabolism. © 2018 IUBMB Life, 70(12):1260-1266, 2018.

Keywords: freeze tolerance; hibernation; hypometabolism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Energy Metabolism / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Hibernation / genetics*
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Mitochondria / genetics*
  • Pyruvate Synthase / genetics
  • Pyruvate Synthase / metabolism


  • MicroRNAs
  • Pyruvate Synthase
  • Glutamate Dehydrogenase