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Ever wondered where you get the energy you use to breathe, eat, drink, talk and walk?. Meet mitochondria, the organelle which converts the fats, proteins and sugars in ingested food into chemical energy in form of ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) used for powering the cells activities. However mitochondria are found in all eukaryotic cells expect in the red blood cells.

EVOLUTION OF MITOCHONDRIA

Mitochondria in cells have their own genetic material apart from the one in the nucleus of a cell, thus making scientist to draw an inference that mitochondria must have evolved from bacteria millions of years ago and by chance were incorporated into eukaryotic cells and had lost its independence ability to survive outside eukaryotic cells over the years.

PROCESS OF CONVERSION OF FOOD SUBSTANCE TO CHEMICAL ENERGY

The process of aerobic respiration takes place inside the mitochondria of living cells, no wonder mitochondria is called the power house of the cell. During this process, mitochondria use the oxygen to convert the sugar in ingested food substances into carbon dioxide and water, therefore leading to the release of ATP, the chemical which the cell uses for energy.

Fat and proteins in the living cells can also be converted to sugar in a process called gluconeogenesis and thereafter use for energy production in the living cells.

STRUCTURE OF MITOCHONDRION

The mitochondrion is made up of four compartments namely:

  • Outer membrane
  • Inner membrane
  • Matrix
  • Mitochondrion DNA (mtDNA)

Outer membrane

The outer membrane contains an integral protein called porins which serve as a pore through which certain ions and small particles goes in and out of the mitochondrion

Inner membrane

Proteins that help in cellular respiration are found within the inner membrane. The inner membrane is folded into multiple cristae which allow a large surface area.

Matrix

This is the part of the mitochondria where most of the metabolic reactions take place.

 Mitochondrion DNA (mtDNA)

Mitochondria DNAs (mtDNA) are transcribed into RNAs and further translated into proteins that help in the conversion of sugar in the living cells into ATP, the cell fuel.

MITOCHONDRIA DYSFUNCTION AND DISEASES

Dysfunction and damage of the mitochondria have been studied to be one of the major causes of chronic fatigue, myopathy (muscular weakness), and diabetes.

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