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The Role Of Reactive Oxygen Species In The Life Cycle Of The Mitochondrion

Paola Venditti, Sergio Di Meo

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Currently, it is known that, in living systems, free radicals and other reactive oxygen and nitrogen species play a double role, because they can cause oxidative damage and tissue dysfunction and serve as molecular signals activating stress responses that are beneficial to the organism. It is also known that mitochondria, because of their capacity to produce free radicals, play a major role in tissue oxidative damage and dysfunction and provide protection against excessive tissue dysfunction through several mechanisms, including the stimulation of permeability transition pore opening. This process leads to mitoptosis and mitophagy, two sequential processes that are a universal route of elimination of dysfunctional mitochondria and is essential to protect cells from the harm due to mitochondrial disordered metabolism. To date, there is significant evidence not only that the above processes are induced by enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, but also that such production is involved in the other phases of the mitochondrial life cycle. Accumulating evidence also suggests that these effects are mediated through the regulation of the expression and the activity of proteins that are engaged in processes such as genesis, fission, fusion, and removal of mitochondria. This review provides an account of the developments of the knowledge on the dynamics of the mitochondrial population, examining the mechanisms governing their genesis, life, and death, and elucidating the role played by free radicals in such processes.