Definition of Mitochondria

The mitochondrion (plural mitochondria) is a double membrane-bound organelle found in all eukaryotic organisms, although some cells in some organisms may lack them (e.g. red blood cells). A number of organisms have reduced or transformed their mitochondria into other structures. To date, only one eukaryote, Monocercomonoides, is known to have completely lost its mitochondria. The word mitochondrion comes from the Greek , mitos, i.e. "thread", and , chondrion, i.e. "granule" or "grain-like". Mitochondria have been described as "the powerhouse of the cell" because they generate most of the cell's supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), used as a source of chemical energy.

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Mitochondria are commonly between 0.75 and 3m in diameter but vary considerably in size and structure. Unless specifically stained, they are not visible. In addition to supplying cellular energy, mitochondria are involved in other tasks, such as signaling, cellular differentiation, and cell death, as well as maintaining control of the cell cycle and cell growth. Mitochondrial biogenesis is in turn temporally coordinated with these cellular processes. Mitochondria have been implicated in several human diseases, including mitochondrial disorders, cardiac dysfunction, heart failure and autism. The number of mitochondria in a cell can vary widely by organism, tissue, and cell type. For instance, red blood cells have no mitochondria, whereas liver cells can have more than 2000. The organelle is composed of compartments that carry out specialized functions. These compartments or regions include the outer membrane, the intermembrane space, the inner membrane, and the cristae and matrix. Mitochondrial proteins vary depending on the tissue and the species. In humans, 615 distinct types of protein have been identified from cardiac mitochondria, whereas in rats, 940 proteins have been reported. The mitochondrial proteome is thought to be dynamically regulated. Although most of a cell's DNA is contained in the cell nucleus, the mitochondrion has its own independent genome that shows substantial similarity to bacterial genomes.