Cell Biology

Growing Old and Falling to Pieces

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Science  12 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5809, pp. 163
DOI: 10.1126/science.315.5809.163b

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, yet experience a remarkably tumultuous life, repeatedly fusing with each other and then parting in a fissional process. This lifestyle seems to take its toll, and in aged cells, mitochondria are often found in pieces.

Scheckhuber et al. examined mitochondrial morphology in yeast and in cells of a filamentous fungus as they aged. Young cells flaunted a filamentous network of mitochondria, whereas discrete mitochondria populated older cells. When mitochondrial fission was blocked, by deleting the mitochondrial fission protein dynamin-related protein 1, cells stayed younger longer and did not suffer the loss of fitness when compared to normally aging cells in other long-lived strains. It seems that reductions in mitochondrial fission can actually extend the life span of a cell, possibly by diminishing its susceptibility to mitochondria-induced apoptosis. Because similar mitochondrial dynamics are observed elsewhere, it will be interesting to see if reductions in mitochondrial fission can increase the healthy life span of other organisms. — SMH

Nat. Cell Biol. 10.1038/ncb1524 (2006).

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