Mitochondria Can Alert Other Cells When They’re in Stress

Mitochondria are represented by little structures that are found in most of the cells. They are known for their machinery that generates energy. Researchers discovered a brand new function of mitochondria.

Apparently, they set off molecular alarms when the cells are exposed to stress or to chemicals that can damage the DNA, for example, chemo. The results were published in Nature Metabolism and are giving us insight about the new cancer treatments which prevent tumors from actually becoming resistant to chemotherapy.

Mitochondria are acting as it’s in the first line of defense in finding DNA stress. The mitochondria basically talk to the rest of the cells and say that it’s under attack and that they should protect themselves. This comes from Professor Gerald Shadel, from Salk’s Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory.

How Can Mitochondria Alert Other Cells When They’re in Stress

The DNA that a cell needs in order to function can be found inside the nucleus of the cell, which is packed with chromosomes and which are gotten from both parents. Each mitochondrion has its own small circle of DNA, which is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA, and it’s passed only from a mother to her child. And most of the cells have hundreds of mitochondria.

The lab group suggested that the cells respond to the wrong packed mtDNA, just as they would react to an invading virus – they release it from mitochondria and then launch an immune response to alert the cells.

In this new study, Shadel, together with these colleagues, started to look for more details about how molecular pathways are activated by the release of the damaged mtDNA into the interior of the cell. They have a subset of genes, which are known to be interferon-stimulated genes, and the presence of viruses activates them. But the genes were a particular subset of ISGs, turned on by viruses. The same subset is also found in cancer cells, which have developed resistance to chemo.

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