Considering Mitochondrial Dynamics in the Context of Aging

A herd of mitochondria exists in every cell, producing the ATP necessary to power that cell. Damage to mitochondria is important in aging, but how damage progresses in a cell's mitochondrial population is complicated by the fact that these are not completely discrete and static entities. They multiply like bacteria (fission), can merge with one another (fusion), and can also exchange individual components of their molecular machinery - so damage can be both passed around or mitigated depending on circumstances. Here researchers build models to better understand this dynamic: "Mitochondria are organelles that play a central role as 'cellular power plants'. The cellular organization of these organelles involves a dynamic spatial network where mitochondria constantly undergo fusion and fission associated with the mixing of their molecular content. ... Mitochondrial dynamics and mitophagy play a key role in ensuring mitochondrial quality control. Impairment thereof was proposed to be causative to neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, and cancer. Accumulation of mitochondrial dysfunction was further linked to aging. Here we applied a probabilistic modeling approach integrating our current knowledge on mitochondrial biology allowing us to simulate mitochondrial function and quality control during aging ... We demonstrate that cycles of fusion and fission and mitophagy indeed are essential for ensuring a high average quality of mitochondria, even under conditions in which random molecular damage is present. Prompted by earlier observations that mitochondrial fission itself can cause a partial drop in mitochondrial membrane potential, we tested the consequences of mitochondrial dynamics being harmful on its own. Next to directly impairing mitochondrial function, pre-existing molecular damage may be propagated and enhanced across the mitochondrial population by content mixing. In this situation, such an infection-like phenomenon impairs mitochondrial quality control progressively. However, when imposing an age-dependent deceleration of cycles of fusion and fission, we observe a delay in the loss of average quality of mitochondria. This provides a rational why fusion and fission rates are reduced during aging and why loss of a mitochondrial fission factor can extend life span in fungi. We propose the 'mitochondrial infectious damage adaptation' (MIDA) model according to which a deceleration of fusion-fission cycles reflects a systemic adaptation increasing life span."

Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002576

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