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PLoS Comput Biol. 2012;8(10):e1002745. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002745. Epub 2012 Oct 25.

Emergence of the mitochondrial reticulum from fission and fusion dynamics.

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Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research, Braunschweig, Germany.


Mitochondria form a dynamic tubular reticulum within eukaryotic cells. Currently, quantitative understanding of its morphological characteristics is largely absent, despite major progress in deciphering the molecular fission and fusion machineries shaping its structure. Here we address the principles of formation and the large-scale organization of the cell-wide network of mitochondria. On the basis of experimentally determined structural features we establish the tip-to-tip and tip-to-side fission and fusion events as dominant reactions in the motility of this organelle. Subsequently, we introduce a graph-based model of the chondriome able to encompass its inherent variability in a single framework. Using both mean-field deterministic and explicit stochastic mathematical methods we establish a relationship between the chondriome structural network characteristics and underlying kinetic rate parameters. The computational analysis indicates that mitochondrial networks exhibit a percolation threshold. Intrinsic morphological instability of the mitochondrial reticulum resulting from its vicinity to the percolation transition is proposed as a novel mechanism that can be utilized by cells for optimizing their functional competence via dynamic remodeling of the chondriome. The detailed size distribution of the network components predicted by the dynamic graph representation introduces a relationship between chondriome characteristics and cell function. It forms a basis for understanding the architecture of mitochondria as a cell-wide but inhomogeneous organelle. Analysis of the reticulum adaptive configuration offers a direct clarification for its impact on numerous physiological processes strongly dependent on mitochondrial dynamics and organization, such as efficiency of cellular metabolism, tissue differentiation and aging.

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