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Mitophagy And Oxidative Stress: The Role Of Aging

Anna De Gaetano, Lara Gibellini, Giada Zanini, Milena Nasi, Andrea Cossarizza, Marcello Pinti

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Mitochondrial dysfunction is a hallmark of aging. Dysfunctional mitochondria are recognized and degraded by a selective type of macroautophagy, named mitophagy. One of the main factors contributing to aging is oxidative stress, and one of the early responses to excessive reactive oxygen species (ROS) production is the induction of mitophagy to remove damaged mitochondria. However, mitochondrial damage caused at least in part by chronic oxidative stress can accumulate, and autophagic and mitophagic pathways can become overwhelmed. The imbalance of the delicate equilibrium among mitophagy, ROS production and mitochondrial damage can start, drive, or accelerate the aging process, either in physiological aging, or in pathological age-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. It remains to be determined which is the prime mover of this imbalance, i.e., whether it is the mitochondrial damage caused by ROS that initiates the dysregulation of mitophagy, thus activating a vicious circle that leads to the reduced ability to remove damaged mitochondria, or an alteration in the regulation of mitophagy leading to the excessive production of ROS by damaged mitochondria.