Focus |

Focus on mitochondrial form and function

Mitochondrial biology is a field of broad interest as this organelle is critical to cellular metabolism, bioenergetics, catabolism and redox homeostasis, and cellular stress responses, and mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to human diseases and pathologies. Nature Cell Biology presents a Focus of specially commissioned Reviews that discuss the contributions of mitochondria to cellular metabolism, as well as mitochondrial dynamics and stress responses and their relevance to human diseases and pathologies. An accompanying online library contains research articles and commentary on this topic published in the past two years by Nature Cell Biology.


Mitochondria are critical to cellular metabolism, homeostasis and stress responses, and their dysfunction is linked to human disease and pathology. In this issue, we present a Focus of specially commissioned Review articles that discuss recent discoveries and emerging questions in this rapidly advancing field.

Editorial | | Nature Cell Biology

Nature Cell Biology Reviews

Mitochondria sense and respond to many stressors and can support cell survival or death through energy production and signalling pathways. Mitochondrial responses depend on fusion–fission dynamics that dilute and segregate damaged mitochondria. Mitochondrial motility and inter-organellar interactions, such as with the endoplasmic reticulum, also function in cellular adaptation to stress. In this Review, we discuss how stressors influence these components, and how they contribute to the complex adaptive and pathological responses that lead to disease.

Review Article | | Nature Cell Biology

Related Nature Cell Biology Research and Comment

The metabolic phenotype of tumours is shaped by a complex interplay between cancer cells and their microenvironment. Two studies now show that aspartate acquisition is a metabolic limitation encountered by certain tumours in their native in vivo environment, and that overcoming this limitation is advantageous for tumour growth.

News & Views | | Nature Cell Biology

Cancer treatments often focus on killing tumour cells through apoptosis, which is thought to typically require mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) and subsequent caspase activation. A study now shows that MOMP can trigger TNF-dependent, but caspase-independent cell death, suggesting a different approach to improve cancer therapy.

News & Views | | Nature Cell Biology

Fusion between the inner membranes of two mitochondria requires the GTPase optic atrophy 1 (OPA1), but the molecular mechanism is poorly understood. A study now shows that fusion of two liposomes can be performed by OPA1 tethered to just one liposome, through an interaction with the phospholipid cardiolipin on the opposing liposome.

News & Views | | Nature Cell Biology

Due to their varied metabolic and signalling roles, mitochondria are important in mediating cell behaviour. By altering mitochondrial function, two studies now identify metabolite-induced epigenetic changes that have profound effects on haematopoietic stem cell fate and function.

News & Views | | Nature Cell Biology

Although the mitochondrial inner membrane rhomboid peptidase PARL is known to participate in critical signalling cascades, its role in apoptosis has remained unclear. PARL is now shown to process the mitochondrial pro-apoptotic protein Smac (also known as DIABLO) for its subsequent release into the cytosol where it antagonizes XIAP-mediated caspase inhibition to promote apoptosis.

News & Views | | Nature Cell Biology