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Cell’s breakup cycle
Cellular powerhouses called mitochondria are a little like on-again-off-again sweethearts; they break up and get back together again all the time. The reason the organelles physically split apart and then rejoin wasn’t clear. But now Axel Kowald of Humbolt University in Berlin and Tom Kirkwood of Newcastle University in England propose that mitochondria evolved to get together in order to more efficiently share resources. A destructive side effect of the togetherness is that mutant mitochondria can take over more easily; hence the frequent breakups, the researchers suggest online June 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Flaws in the breakup and reunion cycle may lead to aging. —Tina Hesman Saey
Cells go totally tubular
When cells starve, they start to digest themselves from the inside out in a process called autophagy. But a cell can’t afford to gobble up all of its insides. Now researchers led by Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., show that energy-producing organelles called mitochondria form tubes to keep from being swallowed whole. The researchers report online June 6 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that starvation spurs the mitochondria to elongate and fuse together. Tubular formations of mitochondria are spared from cannibalization, perhaps so they can provide some energy to starving cells. —Tina Hesman Saey