The research in the Nunnari laboratory is devoted to understanding how the behavior of mitochondria is controlled in cells. Specifically, we are focused on two fundamental problems. The first is how the structure of mitochondria is established and maintained within cells. We are currently elucidating the molecular mechanisms that underlie mitochondrial division and fusion. Our second area of interest is on understanding how the mitochondrial genome is organized and faithfully segregated within the organelle. The inheritance of mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is influenced by the morphology of the organelle and by specific mtDNA-associated structures: proper inheritance is essential for cell survival and for respiratory competence. In addition, the regulation of mitochondrial copy number, morphology and distribution is critical for normal cellular differentiation and function. Not surprisingly, defects in mitochondrial structure and mtDNA maintenance are associated with an increasing number of human diseases.
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