Mitochondria are not only important for the energetic status of the cell, but are also the fatal organelles deciding about cellular life and death. Complex mitochondrial features decisive for cell death execution in mammals are present and functional in yeast: AIF and cytochrome c release to the cytosol, mitochondrial fragmentation as well as mitochondrial hyperpolarisation followed by an oxidative burst, and breakdown of mitochondrial membrane potential. The easy accessibility of mitochondrial manipulations such as repression of respiration by growing yeast on glucose or deletion of mitochondrial DNA (rho(0)) on the one hand and the unique ability of yeast cells to grow on non-fermentable carbon sources by switching on mitochondrial respiration on the other hand have made yeast an excellent tool to delineate the necessity for mitochondria in cell death execution. Yeast research indicates that the connection between mitochondria and apoptosis is intricate, as abrogation of mitochondrial function can be either deleterious or beneficial for the cell depending on the specific context of the death scenario. Surprisingly, mitochondrion dependent yeast apoptosis currently helps to understand the aetiology (or the complex biology) of lethal cytoskeletal alterations, ageing and neurodegeneration. For example, mutation of mitochondrial superoxide dismutase or CDC48/VCP mutations, both implicated in several neurodegenerative disorders, are associated with mitochondrial impairment and apoptosis in yeast.
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