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Bioenergetics and cell death


Address for correspondence: Donald D. Newmeyer, La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, 9420 Athena Circle, La Jolla, CA 92037.


Mitochondrial bioenergetic function is a key to cell life and death. Cells need energy not only to support their vital functions but also to die gracefully. Execution of an apoptotic program includes energy-dependent steps, including kinase signaling, formation of the apoptosome, and effector caspase activation. Under conditions of bioenergetic collapse, cells are diverted toward necrotic demise. Mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP) is a decisive event in the execution of apoptosis. It is also causally linked to a decline in bioenergetic function via different mechanisms, not merely due to cytochrome c dispersion. MOMP-induced bioenergetic deficiency is usually irreversible and commits cells to die, even when caspases are inactive. Here, we discuss the mechanisms by which MOMP impacts bioenergetics in different cell death paradigms.