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Guest edited by: Martin Brand, Navdeep Chandel, Andrew Murray, Jodi Nunnari, Peter Walter

The past few years have seen a tremendous surge of interest in the biology of mitochondria, partly with the re-emergence of metabolism as a focus of topical interest as well as fundamental importance, and partly through the changing perception of their cell biology, and their recognition as a regulated dynamic network engaging with the other membrane systems of the cell, transmitting and receiving signals on its metabolic status, and serving as a launching-pad for programmed cell death.

Reflecting this explosion of new interest and changing perspective, BMC Biology, Cancer & Metabolism, Extreme Physiology & Medicine, and Longevity & Healthspan are launching a cross-journal series of commissioned articles and research papers that will cover every aspect of mitochondrial biology, from the still-contentious origins of this ancient organelle to the current understanding of its activities as a metabolic and signalling hub.

The special adaptations required to allow the unrestrained growth of cancer cells, and in response to the extremes of hypoxia, starvation and endurance exercise, are the territory of Cancer & Metabolism and Extreme Physiology & Medicine. Articles in Longevity & Healthspan tackle the important and often contentious issues of the part played by mitochondria in maintaining health and lifespan. BMC Biology, with a scope that extends across all of biology, aspires to provide overview reviews for non-specialists on the topics examined in detail in its sister journals, and to extend the series beyond these topics and our own species, to embrace everything from human prehistory to the structural biology of the respiratory chain.

The image on this page is a 3D reconstruction of the budding yeast mitochondrial network. Credit: Matheus Viana and Susanne Rafelski.

Mitochondria - metabolism and beyond
BMC Biology 2014, 12:37
Miranda Robertson explains how the changing perception of the structure and function of mitochondria is reflected in the inaugural reviews published in BMC Biology for the series on mitochondria, and will inform future contributions to the series.

Mitochondria at the extremes: pioneers, protectorates, protagonists
Extreme Physiology & Medicine 2014, 3:10
Andrew Murray introduces the mitochondrial response to extreme physiological states, from extremes of cold or starvation, through intense or endurance exercise to spaceflight.

The role of mitochondria in longevity and healthspan
Longevity & Healthspan 2014, 3:7
Martin Brand discusses developments and set-backs in mitochondria-focussed aging research since the free radical theory of aging was first proposed by Harman.

Mitochondria and Cancer
Cancer & Metabolism 2014, 2:8
Navdeep Chandel outlines the important role for mitochondrial metabolism in providing the building blocks for cell proliferation and explains how mitochondria contribute to the bioenergetic, biosynthetic and signaling requirements of proliferating cancer cells. 

  1. Review

    Mitochondrial responses to extreme environments: insights from metabolomics

    Humans are capable of survival in a remarkable range of environments, including the extremes of temperature and altitude as well as zero gravity. Investigation into physiological function in response to such e...

    Katie A O’Brien, Julian L Griffin, Andrew J Murray and Lindsay M Edwards

    Extreme Physiology & Medicine 2015 4:7

    Published on: 4 May 2015

  2. Review

    Mitophagy and cancer

    Mitophagy is a selective form of macro-autophagy in which mitochondria are selectively targeted for degradation in autophagolysosomes. Mitophagy can have the beneficial effect of eliminating old and/or damaged...

    Aparajita H Chourasia, Michelle L Boland and Kay F Macleod

    Cancer & Metabolism 2015 3:4

    Published on: 26 March 2015

  3. Review

    Mitochondria as biosynthetic factories for cancer proliferation

    Unchecked growth and proliferation is a hallmark of cancer, and numerous oncogenic mutations reprogram cellular metabolism to fuel these processes. As a central metabolic organelle, mitochondria execute critic...

    Christopher S Ahn and Christian M Metallo

    Cancer & Metabolism 2015 3:1

    Published on: 25 January 2015

  4. Review

    Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species and cancer

    Mitochondria produce reactive oxygen species (mROS) as a natural by-product of electron transport chain activity. While initial studies focused on the damaging effects of reactive oxygen species, a recent para...

    Lucas B Sullivan and Navdeep S Chandel

    Cancer & Metabolism 2014 2:17

    Published on: 28 November 2014

  5. Review

    SIRT3 and SIRT4 are mitochondrial tumor suppressor proteins that connect mitochondrial metabolism and carcinogenesis

    It is a well-established scientific observation that mammalian cells contain fidelity proteins that appear to protect against and adapt to various forms of endogenous and exogenous cellular conditions. Loss of...

    Yueming Zhu, Yufan Yan, Daniel R Principe, Xianghui Zou, Athanassios Vassilopoulos and David Gius

    Cancer & Metabolism 2014 2:15

    Published on: 20 October 2014

  6. Research

    Metformin directly acts on mitochondria to alter cellular bioenergetics

    Metformin is widely used in the treatment of diabetes, and there is interest in ‘repurposing’ the drug for cancer prevention or treatment. However, the mechanism underlying the metabolic effects of metformin r...

    Sylvia Andrzejewski, Simon-Pierre Gravel, Michael Pollak and Julie St-Pierre

    Cancer & Metabolism 2014 2:12

    Published on: 28 August 2014

  7. Review

    Defects in mitochondrial metabolism and cancer

    Cancer is a heterogeneous set of diseases characterized by different molecular and cellular features. Over the past decades, researchers have attempted to grasp the complexity of cancer by mapping the genetic ...

    Edoardo Gaude and Christian Frezza

    Cancer & Metabolism 2014 2:10

    Published on: 17 July 2014

  8. Review

    Shaping the dynamic mitochondrial network

    In a majority of cell types, mitochondria form highly dynamic, tubular networks. Maintaining the shape of this complex network is critical for both mitochondrial and cellular function and involves the activiti...

    Laura L Lackner

    BMC Biology 2014 12:35

    Published on: 27 May 2014

  9. Review

    Mitochondria as signaling organelles

    Almost 20 years ago, the discovery that mitochondrial release of cytochrome c initiates a cascade that leads to cell death brought about a wholesale change in how cell biologists think of mitochondria. Formerl...

    Navdeep S Chandel

    BMC Biology 2014 12:34

    Published on: 27 May 2014

  10. Editorial

    The role of mitochondria in longevity and healthspan

    The role of mitochondria in aging and disease remains contentious more than 40 years after the mitochondrial free radical theory of aging was first proposed. As part of a wider cross-journal series on contempo...

    Martin D Brand

    Longevity & Healthspan 2014 3:7

    Published on: 22 May 2014

  11. Review

    Mitochondrial oxidative stress in aging and healthspan

    The free radical theory of aging proposes that reactive oxygen species (ROS)-induced accumulation of damage to cellular macromolecules is a primary driving force of aging and a major determinant of lifespan. A...

    Dao-Fu Dai, Ying Ann Chiao, David J Marcinek, Hazel H Szeto and Peter S Rabinovitch

    Longevity & Healthspan 2014 3:6

    Published on: 1 May 2014

  12. Review

    A midlife crisis for the mitochondrial free radical theory of aging

    Since its inception more than four decades ago, the Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging (MFRTA) has served as a touchstone for research into the biology of aging. The MFRTA suggests that oxidative damag...

    Jeffrey A Stuart, Lucas A Maddalena, Max Merilovich and Ellen L Robb

    Longevity & Healthspan 2014 3:4

    Published on: 1 April 2014

  13. Research

    A strategically designed small molecule attacks alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase in tumor cells through a redox process

    Targeting cancer cell metabolism is recognized as a promising arena for development of cancer chemotherapeutics. Moreover, redox metabolism is also systematically altered in tumor cells. Indeed, there is growi...

    Shawn D Stuart, Alexandra Schauble, Sunita Gupta, Adam D Kennedy, Brian R Keppler, Paul M Bingham and Zuzana Zachar

    Cancer & Metabolism 2014 2:4

    Published on: 10 March 2014

  14. Review

    Mitochondrial and sex steroid hormone crosstalk during aging

    Decline in circulating sex steroid hormones accompanies several age-associated pathologies which may influence human healthspan. Mitochondria play important roles in biosynthesis of sex steroid hormones, and t...

    Michael C Velarde

    Longevity & Healthspan 2014 3:2

    Published on: 5 February 2014

  15. Research

    Inhibition of 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase (PFKFB3) induces autophagy as a survival mechanism

    Unlike glycolytic enzymes that directly catabolize glucose to pyruvate, the family of 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-bisphosphatases (PFKFBs) control the conversion of fructose-6-phosphate to and from f...

    Alden C Klarer, Julie O’Neal, Yoannis Imbert-Fernandez, Amy Clem, Steve R Ellis, Jennifer Clark, Brian Clem, Jason Chesney and Sucheta Telang

    Cancer & Metabolism 2014 2:2

    Published on: 23 January 2014