26 June 2013
Mitochondria are the power houses of our cells. The oval structures, 3000 times smaller than a coffee bean, sit inside the cell and are packed with tightly folded membranes called cristae (shown very highly magnified, in green). Here, chemical energy called ATP is generated and powers each and every cell. Each mitochondrion is built from over 600 different protein building-blocks and, like any manufacturing-site, if the mitochondrion is built incorrectly, it can’t function efficiently. Mistakes in a mitochondrial protein complex called MINOS cause heart problems and neurological disorders. To analyse the minutiae of mitochondria and understand how MINOS contributes to their structure, researchers have developed a super-resolution microscopy technique to locate the minute, but mighty MINOS. They found it clustered at the junctions of cristae (shown as orange dots) which arrange in a highly-ordered rail-like structure, 20 million times smaller than the average railway sleeper.
Written by Caroline Cross