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Mitochondria and Mitophagy: The Yin and Yang of Cell Death Control

University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Dr MC 0758, La Jolla, CA 92093-0758. .
Circulation Research (Impact Factor: 11.09). 10/2012; 111(9):1208-21. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.112.265819
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Mitochondria are primarily responsible for providing the contracting cardiac myocyte with a continuous supply of ATP. However, mitochondria can rapidly change into death-promoting organelles. In response to changes in the intracellular environment, mitochondria become producers of excessive reactive oxygen species and release prodeath proteins, resulting in disrupted ATP synthesis and activation of cell death pathways. Interestingly, cells have developed a defense mechanism against aberrant mitochondria that can cause harm to the cell. This mechanism involves selective sequestration and subsequent degradation of the dysfunctional mitochondrion before it causes activation of cell death. Induction of mitochondrial autophagy, or mitophagy, results in selective clearance of damaged mitochondria in cells. In response to stress such as ischemia/reperfusion, prosurvival and prodeath pathways are concomitantly activated in cardiac myocytes. Thus, there is a delicate balance between life and death in the myocytes during stress, and the final outcome depends on the complex cross-talk between these pathways. Mitophagy functions as an early cardioprotective response, favoring adaptation to stress by removing damaged mitochondria. In contrast, increased oxidative stress and apoptotic proteases can inactivate mitophagy, allowing for the execution of cell death. Herein, we discuss the importance of mitochondria and mitophagy in cardiovascular health and disease and provide a review of our current understanding of how these processes are regulated.

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