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J Exp Bot. 2006;57(6):1225-43. Epub 2006 Mar 23.

The mitochondrial compartment.

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School of Biology, Sir Harold Mitchell Building, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TH, Scotland, UK.


Mitochondria are vital organelles that perform a variety of fundamental functions ranging from the synthesis of ATP through to being intimately involved in programmed cell death. Comprised of at least six compartments: outer membrane, inner boundary membrane, intermembrane space, cristal membranes, intracristal space, and matrix, mitochondria have a complex, dynamic internal structure. This internal dynamism is reflected in the pleomorphy and motility of mitochondria. Mitochondria contain their own DNA (mtDNA), encoding a small number of vital genes, but this role as a genetic vault is not compatible with the role of mitochondria in bioenergetics since electron transport results in the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that induce lesions in the mtDNA. It is hypothesized that ROS shape the morphological organization of the higher plant cell mitochondrial population into a discontinuous whole, and that ROS are a selective pressure affecting the organization of the mitochondrial genome. This review describes how inter- and intra-mitochondrial compartmentalization underpins the biology of this complex organelle.

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