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Clin Sci (Lond). 2017 May 1;131(9):803-822. doi: 10.1042/CS20160485.

Mitochondria: a central target for sex differences in pathologies.

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Cardiovascular Signaling and Pathophysiology, UMR-S 1180 Inserm, Université Paris-Sud, Châtenay-Malabry, France
Cardiovascular Signaling and Pathophysiology, UMR-S 1180 Inserm, Université Paris-Sud, Châtenay-Malabry, France.
Pathophysiology of Striated Muscles Laboratory, Unit of Functional and Adaptive Biology (BFA), Université Paris Diderot, UMR CNRS 8251, Paris, France.
Université Versailles St-Quentin, Inserm UMR-S 1180, Université Paris-Sud, Chatenay-Malabry, France.


It is increasingly acknowledged that a sex and gender specificity affects the occurrence, development, and consequence of a plethora of pathologies. Mitochondria are considered as the powerhouse of the cell because they produce the majority of energy-rich phosphate bonds in the form of adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) but they also participate in many other functions like steroid hormone synthesis, reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, ionic regulation, and cell death. Adequate cellular energy supply and survival depend on mitochondrial life cycle, a process involving mitochondrial biogenesis, dynamics, and quality control via mitophagy. It appears that mitochondria are the place of marked sexual dimorphism involving mainly oxidative capacities, calcium handling, and resistance to oxidative stress. In turn, sex hormones regulate mitochondrial function and biogenesis. Mutations in genes encoding mitochondrial proteins are the origin of serious mitochondrial genetic diseases. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also an important parameter for a large panel of pathologies including neuromuscular disorders, encephalopathies, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs), metabolic disorders, neuropathies, renal dysfunction etc. Many of these pathologies present sex/gender specificity. Here we review the sexual dimorphism of mitochondria from different tissues and how this dimorphism takes part in the sex specificity of important pathologies mainly CVDs and neurological disorders.


ageing; cardiovascular diseases; gender; metabolic diseases; mitochondria; neurological disorders; oxidative stress; sex; sexual dimorphism

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