Asymmetric apportioning of aged mitochondria between daughter cells is required for stemness

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Science  17 Apr 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6232, pp. 340-343
DOI: 10.1126/science.1260384

Stem cells can sort mitochondria by age

The renewal of tissues in aging organisms requires stem cells, which have the unusual ability to divide asymmetrically into one daughter cell that retains stem cell properties and another that differentiates into a particular tissue type. Katajisto et al. used photoactivated marker proteins to monitor the age of cell organelles in stemlike cells from human breast tissue and their distribution into daughter cells. Most organelles were evenly distributed, but daughter cells that maintained stem-cell properties received more newly produced mitochondria and fewer old ones.

Science, this issue p. 340


By dividing asymmetrically, stem cells can generate two daughter cells with distinct fates. However, evidence is limited in mammalian systems for the selective apportioning of subcellular contents between daughters. We followed the fates of old and young organelles during the division of human mammary stemlike cells and found that such cells apportion aged mitochondria asymmetrically between daughter cells. Daughter cells that received fewer old mitochondria maintained stem cell traits. Inhibition of mitochondrial fission disrupted both the age-dependent subcellular localization and segregation of mitochondria and caused loss of stem cell properties in the progeny cells. Hence, mechanisms exist for mammalian stemlike cells to asymmetrically sort aged and young mitochondria, and these are important for maintaining stemness properties.

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