Mitochondria. Construction and functions

Mitochondria is the center of energy harvesting of all cells - both animal and human. They have their own genetic material - DNA. What are the functions of mitochondria and what are they made of?

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1. What are mitochondria?

The mitochondria (mitochondria in the plural) is the cell organelle responsible for supplying cells with energy. Thus, mitochondria constitute the "power plant" in the human and animal body that supplies cells with energy. They play a very important role - they produce an amount of energy comparable to our body weight every day.

For the production of ATP energy (needed for the work of internal organs) to work properly, the mitochondria need carbohydrates (glycolysis), fats (beta oxidation) and oxygen.

The field of science dealing with these important organelles is called Mitochondrial Medicine.

2. Mitochondria - structure

Mitochondria are encased in a double membrane. Their size is 0.5-1 nanometers. Each mitochondrion consists of an outer smooth membrane (membrane), an inner membrane with a mitochondrial crest (membrane), a respiratory chain also found in an inner membrane with a mitochondrial crest, a mitochondrial matrix, and an intermembrane space.

The outer, smooth membrane is permeable to smaller molecules, while it is impermeable to folded protein molecules. The outer membrane with the mitochondrial crest is strongly folded and provides a functional surface.

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Only gases and water can pass through this membrane. The rest has to go inward via proteins called coupled transporters (symporters and antiporters).

The respiratory chain contains enzyme complexes responsible, among others, for electron transport. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is located in the mitochondrial matrix, and the intermembrane space is where the enzyme (adenylate kinase) resides between membranes.

3. What are the functions of mitochondria?

The primary and most important role of the mitochondria is to produce energy from nutrients. But that's not the only function - mitochondria have many more tasks. Without them, cells cannot function properly - if they do not function properly, they are damaged, the cell dies.

Moreover, fat is transformed in the mitochondria. They also play a cleansing role - the liver cells are in a cycle of conversion of toxic ammonia to less harmful urea.

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4. What is Mitochondrial DNA?

Mitochondria also have their own genetic material - DNA, which is a circularly closed deoxyribonucleic acid molecule. It contains genetic information about mitochondrial proteins and about the enzymes that catalyze the reactions of cellular respiration.

DNA thus enables important life processes, such as cellular respiration, cell division and apoptosis, maintenance of homeostasis through calcium storage, enzymatic regulation and the balance between free radicals and antioxidants.

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