, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 739-764

Mitochondrial Involvement in Brain Function and Dysfunction: Relevance to Aging, Neurodegenerative Disorders and Longevity

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Abstract

It is becoming increasingly evident that the mitochondrial genome may play a key role in neurodegenerative diseases. Mitochondrial dysfunction is characteristic of several neurodegenerative disorders, and evidence for mitochondria being a site of damage in neurodegenerative disorders is partially based on decreases in respiratory chain complex activities in Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and Huntington's disease. Such defects in respiratory complex activities, possibly associated with oxidant/antioxidant balance perturbation, are thought to underlie defects in energy metabolism and induce cellular degeneration. Efficient functioning of maintenance and repair process seems to be crucial for both survival and physical quality of life. This is accomplished by a complex network of the so-called longevity assurance processes, which are composed of genes termed vitagenes. A promising approach for the identification of critical gerontogenic processes is represented by the hormesis-like positive effect of stress. In the present review, we discuss the role of energy thresholds in brain mitochondria and their implications in neurodegeneration. We then review the evidence for the role of oxidative stress in modulating the effects of mitochondrial DNA mutations on brain age-related disorders and also discuss new approaches for investigating the mechanisms of lifetime survival and longevity.