Mitochondria on Guard: Role of Mitochondrial Fusion and Fission in the Regulation of Apoptosis

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Mitochondria are highly dynamic organelles that constantly change shape and structure in response to different stimuli and metabolic demands of the cell. Mitochondrial structure in the cell is predominantly regulated by cycles of fusion and fission. These two processes are tightly regulated and under physiological conditions, mitochondrial fusion is evenly counterbalanced by fission. During apoptosis, mitochondria undergo extensive fragmentation, which precedes caspase activation, whereas inhibition of the mitochondrial fission machinery blocks or delays cell death. Aberrant mitochondrial fusion and fission have also emerged as important mechanisms in the development of disease.