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Mitochondria-derived cell-to-cell communication

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In any given year, there are very few discoveries in biology that both respond to deficient areas of knowledge and challenge current research thinking and paradigms. Such is the case with mitochondria, however; as they have now been identified in the extracellular space and reevaluated as far more than just the energy source inside the cell. As we have seen, these organelles can in fact be present within the circulation as free whole mitochondria, or as fragmented components, or encapsulated within vesicles. Outside the cells, too, these structures and their byproducts may participate in a plethora of functions, ranging from the maintenance of homeostasis to the modulation of immune responses to intercellular communication. The human body employs mitochondria to elicit responses to cellular damage when DAMPs are detected, similar to the immune responses produced in case of infection. Due to their symbiotic bacterial origin, mitochondria molecules elicit an immune response. As a
result of cell injury events, therefore, mitochondrial proteins, lipids, and metabolites are released into inappropriate interstitial compartments or into the circulation, where they are recognized by the immune cells as DAMPs, leading to inflammation. Indeed, in one of their most striking characteristics, extracellular whole
intact mitochondria have been found acting as bona fide danger signals, which activate the immune cells and induce an inflammatory reaction. Mitochondria or their genome or indeed their components can also cross cell barriers and thus be transferred horizontally from one cell to another. This highlights the capacity
of mitochondria to communicate intercellularly, as observed (for instance) in cell rescue, cell reprogramming, and tumorigenesis"

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