Recent decades have seen a rapid increase in reported toxic effects of drugs and pollutants on mitochondria. Researchers have also documented many genetic differences leading to mitochondrial diseases, currently reported to affect ∼1 person in 4,300, creating a large number of potential gene-environment interactions in mitochondrial toxicity. We briefly review this history, and then highlight cutting-edge areas of mitochondrial research including the role of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species in signaling; increased understanding of fundamental biological processes involved in mitochondrial homeostasis (DNA maintenance and mutagenesis, mitochondrial stress response pathways, fusion and fission, autophagy and biogenesis, and exocytosis); systemic effects resulting from mitochondrial stresses in specific cell types; mitochondrial involvement in immune function; the growing evidence of long-term effects of mitochondrial toxicity; mitochondrial-epigenetic cross-talk; and newer approaches to test chemicals for mitochondrial toxicity. We also discuss the potential importance of hormetic effects of mitochondrial stressors. Finally, we comment on future areas of research we consider critical for mitochondrial toxicology, including increased integration of clinical, experimental laboratory, and epidemiological (human and wildlife) studies; improved understanding of biomarkers in the human population; and incorporation of other factors that affect mitochondria, such as diet, exercise, age, and nonchemical stressors.
Meyer, JN; Hartman, JH; Mello, DF
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