Mitochondria's other job is to control stem cell development


 In a remarkable discovery, scientists show that blocking the action of a key enzyme in mitochondria stops stem cells from developing into egg cells in fruit flies.

Mitochondria - tiny digestive systems found inside nearly every cell of the body - are traditionally known for their vital role in generating energy for cells to function.

In the new study, published in Nature Cell Biology, a team led by researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, NY, shows that mitochondria's role in the development of stem cells is entirely distinct from that of producing energy for cell metabolism.

In their traditional role, mitochondria provide cells with units of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The chemical reaction that produces ATP relies on an important enzyme called ATP synthase enzyme.

The new research shows that ATP synthase is also important for normal stem cell development. The enzyme directly controls the growth and maintenance of "cristae" - the wrinkled, folded membranes inside mitochondria - as the stem cells divide and form the specific cell components of the female germ cell or egg.