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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002 Sep 10;1555(1-3):196-203.

Insight into mitochondrial structure and function from electron tomography.

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Department of Biology, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182-4614, USA.


In recent years, electron tomography has provided detailed three-dimensional models of mitochondria that have redefined our concept of mitochondrial structure. The models reveal an inner membrane consisting of two components, the inner boundary membrane (IBM) closely apposed to the outer membrane and the cristae membrane that projects into the matrix compartment. These two components are connected by tubular structures of relatively uniform size called crista junctions. The distribution of crista junction sizes and shapes is predicted by a thermodynamic model based upon the energy of membrane bending, but proteins likely also play a role in determining the conformation of the inner membrane. Results of structural studies of mitochondria during apoptosis demonstrate that cytochrome c is released without detectable disruption of the outer membrane or extensive swelling of the mitochondrial matrix, suggesting the formation of an outer membrane pore large enough to allow passage of holo-cytochrome c. The possible compartmentation of inner membrane function between the IBM and the cristae membrane is also discussed.

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