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Aberrant mitochondrial function in ageing and cancer

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Julia Whitehall, Dr Laura Greaves



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Alterations in mitochondrial metabolism have been described as one of the major hallmarks of both ageing cells and cancer. Age is the biggest risk factor for the development of a significant number of cancer types and this therefore raises the question of whether there is a link between age-related mitochondrial dysfunction and the advantageous changes in mitochondrial metabolism prevalent in cancer cells. A common underlying feature of both ageing and cancer cells is the presence of somatic mutations of the mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) which we postulate may drive compensatory alterations in mitochondrial metabolism that are advantageous for tumour growth. In this review, we discuss basic mitochondrial functions, mechanisms of mtDNA mutagenesis and their metabolic consequences, and review the evidence for and against a role for mtDNA mutations in cancer development.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Whitehall JC, Greaves LC

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Biogerontology

Year: 2020

Volume: 21

Issue: 4

Pages: 445-459

Print publication date: 01/08/2020

Online publication date: 04/12/2019

Acceptance date: 23/11/2019

ISSN (print): 1389-5729

ISSN (electronic): 1573-6768


DOI: 10.1007/s10522-019-09853-y