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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2013 Oct 15;379(1-2):74-84. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2013.06.005. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Mitochondria and mammalian reproduction.

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CNC - Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology, University of Coimbra, Portugal; Department of Life Sciences, University of Coimbra, Portugal. Electronic address:


Mitochondria are cellular organelles with crucial roles in ATP synthesis, metabolic integration, reactive oxygen species (ROS) synthesis and management, the regulation of apoptosis (namely via the intrinsic pathway), among many others. Additionally, mitochondria in different organs or cell types may have distinct properties that can decisively influence functional analysis. In terms of the importance of mitochondria in mammalian reproduction, and although there are species-specific differences, these aspects involve both energetic considerations for gametogenesis and fertilization, control of apoptosis to ensure the proper production of viable gametes, and ROS signaling, as well as other emerging aspects. Crucially, mitochondria are the starting point for steroid hormone biosynthesis, given that the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone (a common precursor for all steroid hormones) takes place via the activity of the cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage enzyme (P450scc) on the inner mitochondrial membrane. Furthermore, mitochondrial activity in reproduction has to be considered in accordance with the very distinct strategies for gamete production in the male and female. These include distinct gonad morpho-physiologies, different types of steroids that are more prevalent (testosterone, estrogens, progesterone), and, importantly, the very particular timings of gametogenesis. While spermatogenesis is complete and continuous since puberty, producing a seemingly inexhaustible pool of gametes in a fixed environment; oogenesis involves the episodic production of very few gametes in an environment that changes cyclically. These aspects have always to be taken into account when considering the roles of any common element in mammalian reproduction.


Fertilization; Gametogenesis; Mitochondria; Reproduction; Steroidogenesis

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