Historically, mitochondria have been primarily viewed as biosynthetic and bioenergetic organelles that generate metabolites for the production of macromolecules and adenosine triphosphate (ATP), respectively. The work of the Chandel laboratory has elucidated that mitochondria have a third distinct role whereby they release reactive oxygen species (ROS) and metabolites to regulate transcription factors and epigenetics. For his lecture, Dr. Chandel will present his lab’s ongoing efforts to understand how mitochondria, in addition to producing ATP, regulate cancer and immunity.
Historically, reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been thought to be cellular damaging agents, lacking a physiological function. Accumulation of ROS and oxidative damage have been linked to multiple pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, cancer, and premature aging. This guilt by association relationship left a picture of ROS as a necessary evil of oxidative metabolism, a product of an imperfect system. Yet few biological systems possess such flagrant imperfections, thanks to the persistent optimization of evolution, and it appears that oxidative metabolism is no different. More and more evidence suggests that low levels of ROS are critical for healthy cellular function. We are testing whether mitochondrial release of H2O2 has evolved as a method of communication between mitochondrial function and other cellular processes to maintain homeostasis (e.g. stem cell function and immune responses) and promote adaptation to stress (e.g. hypoxia).
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