The role of nonbilayer phospholipids in mitochondrial structure and function Academic Article uri icon


  • Mitochondrial structure and function are influenced by the unique phospholipid composition of its membranes. While mitochondria contain all the major classes of phospholipids, recent studies have highlighted specific roles of the nonbilayer-forming phospholipids phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and cardiolipin (CL) in the assembly and activity of mitochondrial respiratory chain (MRC) complexes. The nonbilayer phospholipids are cone-shaped molecules that introduce curvature stress in the bilayer membrane and have been shown to impact mitochondrial fusion and fission. In addition to their overlapping roles in these mitochondrial processes, each nonbilayer phospholipid also plays a unique role in mitochondrial function; for example, CL is specifically required for MRC supercomplex formation. Recent discoveries of mitochondrial PE- and CL-trafficking proteins and prior knowledge of their biosynthetic pathways have provided targets for precisely manipulating nonbilayer phospholipid levels in the mitochondrial membranes in vivo. Thus, the genetic mutants of these pathways could be valuable tools in illuminating molecular functions and biophysical properties of nonbilayer phospholipids in driving mitochondrial bioenergetics and dynamics.

altmetric score

  • 1.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Ball, W. B., Neff, J. K., & Gohil, V. M.

citation count

  • 41

publication date

  • November 2017