Mitophagy and age-related pathologies: Development of new therapeutics by targeting mitochondrial turnover

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Mitochondria are highly dynamic and semi-autonomous organelles, essential for many fundamental cellular processes, including energy production, metabolite synthesis, ion homeostasis, lipid metabolism and initiation of apoptotic cell death. Proper mitochondrial physiology is a prerequisite for health and survival. Generation of new and removal of damaged or unwanted mitochondria are tightly controlled processes that need to be accurately coordinated for the maintenance of mitochondrial and cellular homeostasis. Mitophagy is a conserved, mitochondria-specific autophagic clearance process. An intricate regulatory network balances mitophagy with mitochondrial biogenesis. Proper coordination of these opposing processes is important for stress resistance and longevity. Age-dependent decline of mitophagy both inhibits removal of dysfunctional or superfluous mitochondria and impairs mitochondrial biogenesis resulting in progressive mitochondrial accretion and consequently, deterioration of cell function. Nodal regulatory factors that contribute to mitochondrial homeostasis have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several age-associated pathologies, such as neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disorders and cancer, among others. Thus, mitophagy is emerging as a potential target for therapeutic interventions against diseases associated with ageing. In this review, we survey the molecular mechanisms that govern and interface mitophagy with mitochondrial biogenesis, focusing on key elements that hold promise for the development of pharmacological approaches towards enhancing healthspan and quality of life in the elderly.

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