pp 1-22 | Cite as

Mitochondria Inspire a Lifestyle

  • Peter Kramer
  • Paola BressanEmail author
Part of the Advances in Anatomy, Embryology and Cell Biology book series


Tucked inside our cells, we animals (and plants, and fungi) carry mitochondria, minuscule descendants of bacteria that invaded our common ancestor 2 billion years ago. This unplanned breakthrough endowed our ancestors with a convenient, portable source of energy, enabling them to progress towards more ambitious forms of life. Mitochondria still manufacture most of our energy; we have evolved to invest it to grow and produce offspring, and to last long enough to make it all happen. Yet because the continuous generation of energy is inevitably linked to that of toxic free radicals, mitochondria give us life and give us death. Stripping away clutter and minutiae, here we present a big-picture perspective of how mitochondria work, how they are passed on virtually only by mothers, and how they shape the lifestyles of species and individuals. We discuss why restricting food prolongs lifespan, why reproducing shortens it, and why moving about protects us from free radicals despite increasing their production. We show that our immune cells use special mitochondria to keep control over our gut microbes. And we lay out how the fabrication of energy and free radicals sets the internal clocks that command our everyday rhythms—waking, eating, sleeping. Mitochondria run the show.


Antioxidants Circadian rhythms Dietary restriction Free radicals Longevity Mitochondria 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Psicologia GeneraleUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly

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