Mitochondria are vital cellular organelles involved in a plethora of cellular processes such as energy conversion, calcium homeostasis, heme biogenesis, regulation of apoptosis and ROS reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. Although they are frequently depicted as static bean-shaped structures, our view has markedly changed over the past few decades as many studies have revealed a remarkable dynamicity of mitochondrial shapes and sizes both at the cellular and intra-mitochondrial levels. Aberrant changes in mitochondrial dynamics and cristae structure are associated with ageing and numerous human diseases (e.g., cancer, diabetes, various neurodegenerative diseases, types of neuro- and myopathies). Another unique feature of mitochondria is that they harbor their own genome, the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). MtDNA exists in several hundreds to thousands of copies per cell and is arranged and packaged in the mitochondrial matrix in structures termed mt-nucleoids. Many human diseases are mechanistically linked to mitochondrial dysfunction and alteration of the number and/or the integrity of mtDNA. In particular, several recent studies identified remarkable and partly unexpected links between mitochondrial structure, fusion and fission dynamics, and mtDNA. In this review, we will provide an overview about these recent insights and aim to clarify how mitochondrial dynamics, cristae ultrastructure and mtDNA structure influence each other and determine mitochondrial functions.
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