Mitochondria – Class 11 | Chapter – 8 | Short Notes Series PDF

Mitochondria are membrane-bound cell organelles (mitochondrion, singular) that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell’s biochemical reactions. Chemical energy produced by the mitochondria is stored in a small molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of the cell. They help turn the energy we take from food into energy that the cell can use. But, there is more to mitochondria than energy production.

Mitochondria Diagram

Mitochondria Diagram

These are small, often between 0.75 and 3 micrometers and are not visible under the microscope unless they are stained.

Unlike other organelles (miniature organs within the cell), they have two membranes, an outer one and an inner one. Each membrane has different functions.

These are split into different compartments or regions, each of which carries out distinct roles.

Some of the major regions include the:

Outer membrane: Small molecules can pass freely through the outer membrane. This outer portion includes proteins called porins, which form channels that allow proteins to cross. The outer membrane also hosts a number of enzymes with a wide variety of functions.

Intermembrane space: This is the area between the inner and outer membranes.

Inner membrane: This membrane holds proteins that have several roles. Because there are no porins in the inner membrane, it is impermeable to most molecules. Molecules can only cross the inner membrane in special membrane transporters. The inner membrane is where most ATP is created.

Cristae: These are the folds of the inner membrane. They increase the surface area of the membrane, therefore increasing the space available for chemical reactions.

Matrix: This is the space within the inner membrane. Containing hundreds of enzymes, it is important in the production of ATP. Mitochondrial DNA is housed here (see below).

Different cell types have different numbers of mitochondria. For instance, mature red blood cells have none at all, whereas liver cells can have more than 2,000. Cells with a high demand for energy tend to have greater numbers of mitochondria. Around 40 percent of the cytoplasm in heart muscle cells is taken up by mitochondria.

Although mitochondria are often drawn as oval-shaped organelles, they are constantly dividing (fission) and bonding together (fusion). So, in reality, these organelles are linked together in ever-changing networks.

Also, in sperm cells, the mitochondria are spiraled in the midpiece and provide energy for tail motion.

Functions of Mitochondria

The most important function is to produce energy through the process of oxidative phosphorylation. It is also involved in the following process:

  • Regulates the metabolic activity of the cell
  • Promotes the growth of new cells and cell multiplication
  • Helps in detoxifying ammonia in the liver cells
  • Plays an important role in apoptosis or programmed cell death
  • Responsible for building certain parts of the blood and various hormones like testosterone and oestrogen
  • Helps in maintaining an adequate concentration of calcium ions within the compartments of the cell
  • It is also involved in various cellular activities like cellular differentiation, cell signalling, cell senescence, controlling the cell cycle and also in cell growth.

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By Team Learning Mantras