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Mitochondria, apoptosis, and oxidative stress

Explore the vital role of mitochondria in apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Learn about the different triggers for apoptosis, from DNA damage to infection, and how these signals impact the mitochondria. Dive into the process of apoptosis, highlighting the importance of caspases and cytochrome c in this controlled cell death pathway.
Visit us (http://www.khanacademy.org/science/healthcare-and-medicine) for health and medicine content or (http://www.khanacademy.org/test-prep/mcat) for MCAT related content. These videos do not provide medical advice and are for informational purposes only. The videos are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in any Khan Academy video.
Created by Vishal Punwani.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user Charles Burbank
    It should be noted that cytochrome c attaches to AIF (apoptotic inducing factor) which is then activated. When Cyt. C attaches to AIF an active site called a card-domain is now available. This allows the the active AIF to aggregate and form the apoptozome. This is what activated caspase-9 which activated a positive feedback cycle that activates the other caspases. They in turn break down cellular components.
    (15 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Jovat14
    The video indicates that caspase is used as a mechanism to mediate apoptosis and compares that as a difference to necrosis. Is there a mechanism used to mediate necrosis?
    (3 votes)
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  • leafers seed style avatar for user new.arwa
    beside being cellular death how apoptosis is beneficial for our body?
    (1 vote)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Abid Ali
      If a cell becomes damaged and irreparable, then apoptosis will occur to dispose of that cell. Ex. If there is a harmful DNA mutation that develops in a cell and if the cell can't repair it, then it will go through apoptosis to make the sure the mutation dies with the cell.
      (4 votes)
  • marcimus pink style avatar for user tamera.mcneil1999
    What is the role of the mitochondria in apoptosis and generally in the cell?
    (2 votes)
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    • duskpin seedling style avatar for user Marguerite-Marie Monaque
      In eucaryotic cells , mitochondrias are the equivalent of the energy factory . It s in their crest that happenss all the ATP production which is the universal energy device of the cells.
      In apoptosis , the balance of proteins responsible of the permeability of the outer membran (BCL 2) leans to pro-apoptosis. Therefor , they make the membran more permeable and other proteins( cytochrome C) can get out of the mitochondria . The cytochrome C attaches to AIF(Apoptosis Induction Factor) .The Cytochrome C-AIF then aggregates forming the apoptosome and activate the capsase-9 in a chain reaction with more and more activated capsase-9 . And they in turn break down cellular components.
      (2 votes)
  • female robot grace style avatar for user Eda Fenercioglu
    Why do cells that are not in close proximity to other cells undergo apoptosis? Is there something in other cells that's necessary for a cell's survival? Also, does this apply for all types of cells?
    (2 votes)
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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] The mitochondria is probably most well-known for metabolic pathways like the Krebs cycle and the electron transfer chain that allow ourselves to produce ATP. And that's probably why it's commonly referred to as the energy powerhouse of the cell. But in this video, I want to talk about one of its other functions and specifically the role that it plays in apoptosis which is defined as programmed cell death. Now when we're talking about cell death, there is another type of cell death that you might have heard of called necrosis, and before we jump into apoptosis, I just want to take a minute to talk about the distinction between these two. Notably, there's still a lot of active research going on to elucidate the mechanisms behind necrosis and apoptosis, and to be honest, in some cases, it's hard to classify a particular case of cell death as strictly apoptotic or due to necrosis. And so, we often say it sometimes lies along a spectrum between necrosis and apoptosis. But in any case just painting broad strokes, we generally classify apoptosis as more of a controlled type of cell death. Whereas necrosis is more of an uncontrolled type of cell death that usually is in response to extreme stress like an extreme infection or extreme trauma. Apoptosis on the other hand as its definition kind of implies here, it's a programmed type of cell death. Has usually some big purpose and often can confer some advantage to the organism. And one example of this is actually an embryological development, and specifically the development of our fingers and our toes. Let's take for example the development of our hands. Early on in our development when we're still a fetus, our hand looks something like a paw. And through apoptosis, the tissue between our digits eventually dies off and that purposeful controlled death of this tissue ultimately allows us to produce a hand with five separated digits that we call fingers. And with that in mind, we can actually brainstorm some other advantageous reasons that a cell might want to undergo cell death. So here I've kind of drawn a cell and because I mentioned earlier, the mitochondria plays a big role in apoptosis. I'm gonna go ahead and draw kind of a massive mitochondria in here, remember that the mitochondria has two membranes. I've drawn the outer membrane and here I'm drawing the in foldings or the crysti of the inner mitochondrial membrane. Now we just talked about one type of signal that induced a cell to undergo apoptosis, and that was a signal that was given during our embryological development. But there are also other things that can induce our cell to undergo apoptosis as well and I want to touch on several of these factors right now. First off, turns out that DNA damage can induce cell death and I should mention that our cells have repair mechanisms in place that can deal with DNA damage but in some cases, the DNA damage might be quite intensive or our repair mechanisms are simply not equipped to repair DNA damage from some reason or another, and so, the kind of last fail safe mechanism to deal with this is to induce programmed cell death. And of course, this is advantageous for our organism because we wouldn't want a cell with a damaged DNA to pass that damaged DNA down to its offspring cells. So this is a way that we can essentially get rid of those damaged cells. In addition, infection especially by viruses because viruses like to hang out inside of our cells can also induce programmed cell death. And in this case, oftentimes it's immune cells that remember are kind of our army against infection that see that there are specific proteins on cells that have been infected by viruses, and our immune cells can recognize these proteins and send signals from the immune cell to our infected cell to tell our cell to undergo a cell death. Additionally, environmental stress can also induce apoptosis or programmed cell death. This is anything from the deprivation of oxygen or nutrients to even a deprivation of the cell's connection to other cells. It turns out that in order to continue surviving, the cell needs to get a signal that it's attached or in close proximity to other cells around it. And so if these cell to cell connections are somehow disrupted, it could signal the cell to undergo apoptosis. I'll also mention that many cells are constantly receiving signals from growth factors which are specific molecules oftentimes hormones that are sending signals to these cells to proliferate and divide. And so if those are somehow taken away for some reason or another, then cells might see that as a sign to undergo cell death as well. Of course, the big theme here is that cells have a way to undergo some type of controlled programmed cell death if their environment isn't very hospitable. And finally I want to mention that reactive oxygen species which are often referred to as ROS can also induce cell death. Now these reactive oxygen species are exactly what they sound like. They are oxygen species that have acquired oftentimes an unstable number of electrons and that makes them very reactive. And some examples of these include the superoxide anion which is an oxygen molecule that has essentially acquired an extra electron here making it negatively charged. In addition we have a neutrally charged hydroxide molecule which is usually called a hydroxide radical because it only has one electron. And also hydrogen peroxide is an additional reactive oxygen species that can be formed inside of our cells. Now recall that oxygen is important because it's the final electron acceptor in the electron transfer chain of the mitochondria which is important for producing all of that ATP for our cells. But it turns out that up to 4% of that oxygen is improperly reduced only partially and that's what leads to the production of these reactive oxygen species. Now in order to prevent unwanted reactions between these highly reactive species and important things in our cells like lipid membranes and DNA and proteins, our cells have come up with some enzymes to try and convert these to less reactive species as well as some antioxidant molecules that try and trap these reactive oxygen species. But of course, if the extent of this oxidative damage is too high and our repair mechanisms can't work, our cells will undergo programmed cell death. Now even if the pathways by which these diverse signals communicate to the cell that it needs to undergo apoptosis may be slightly different from one another, one common endpoint is that they all have an effect upon the mitochondria which plays a large role in initiating apoptosis. In fact, one of the early findings in apoptosis is that this outer mitochondrial membrane here becomes more permeable than it was before. And notably, the proteins that regulate the permeability of this outer mitochondrial membrane are part of a family of proteins called the BCL2 family of proteins. And this name comes from where these proteins were first discovered which was in a B-cell lymphoma which is a type of cancer of B-cells which are immune cells in your body. But the important thing to take away here is that there are two types of proteins in this BCL2 family. There are proteins that are pro-apoptotic which means they want to push the cell towards apoptosis, or they're anti-apoptotic. In which case they oppose apoptosis. Ultimately what that means is that when the cell is healthy and it's not receiving any of these apoptotic signals, the balance of these proteins is in favor of these anti-apoptotic proteins which essentially inhibit and prevent this mitochondria from initiating apoptosis. On the other hand, when the mitochondria receives signals downstream from any of these apoptotic signals, the balance shifts to be in favor of these pro-apoptotic proteins, which then facilitate this increased permeability of the outer mitochondrial membrane. Now the purpose of increasing the permeability of this outer mitochondrial membrane is to allow a particular molecule that's normally found within the intermembrane space and actually it's often loosely associated with this inner mitochondrial membrane here. But when this permeability increases, it allows this molecule to exit the intermembrane space and enter the cytoplasm. And the name of this molecule is cytochrome c. Notably, it also happens to be a member of the electron transfer chain. Specifically it helps shuttle electrons between the third and fourth complex of the electron transfer chain. It kind of has a dual role here. It does that but it also plays a role in apoptosis. Specifically, the cytochrome c molecules activate a family of enzymes inside of the cytoplasm called caspases. The name caspase actually tells us a lot about the function of this family of enzymes. I'm going ahead and writing this name out suggestively here to explain to you that this caspase is a type of protease which remember is the type of enzyme that breaks down proteins. It specifically breaks down proteins after the aspartate residue which is a type of amino acid, and it breaks these proteins down with a cysteine residue, which again is a type of amino acid that's located in its active site hence the C at the beginning of the name caspase. Note, if we come full circle back to the beginning of our discussion when we were talking about the difference between necrosis and apoptosis, one of the major differences in terms of the mechanisms of these two pathways is that apoptosis is caspase mediated. It uses these caspase enzymes but necrosis does not utilize these enzymes. And what's special about these caspase enzymes is that they have a controlled cascade of actions. The one caspase that was activated by the cytochrome c can go on to activate another type of caspase, and essentially control and orchestrate the degradation of proteins that way. In addition, it also can activate other types of enzymes in the body like nucleases that can break down DNA. And so, altogether the eventual result is that there's basically a whole scale degradation of all the kind of large polymers inside of this cell. And one unique thing about apoptosis is that the degradation of all of these polymers inside the cell can be recycled to surrounding cells. The surrounding cells can kind of phagocytose or eat up those degraded polymers to kind of reuse all of those amino acids and nucleotide bases in their own cells.