Mitochondria are a distinguishing feature of eukaryotic cells. Best known for their critical function in energy production via oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), mitochondria are essential for nutrient and oxygen sensing and for the regulation of critical cellular processes, including cell death and inflammation. Such diverse functional roles for organelles that were once thought to be simple may be attributed to their distinct heteroplasmic genome, exclusive maternal lineage of inheritance, and ability to generate signals to communicate with other cellular organelles. Mitochondria are now thought of as one of the cell’s most sophisticated and dynamic responsive sensing systems. Specific signatures of mitochondrial dysfunction that are associated with disease pathogenesis and/or progression are becoming increasingly important. In particular, the centrality of mitochondria in the pathological processes and clinical phenotypes associated with a range of lung diseases is emerging. Understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating the mitochondrial processes of lung cells will help to better define phenotypes and clinical manifestations associated with respiratory disease and to identify potential diagnostic and therapeutic targets.
Suzanne M. Cloonan, Augustine M.K. Choi