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The enigma of an interconnected mitochondrial reticulum: new insights into mitochondrial fusion

It has been over 20 years since the identification of the first GTPases that regulate mitochondrial fusion in drosophila, yeast, and mammalian cells. While the molecular identification of these players solidified the new field of mitochondrial dynamics, cell imaging had established the dynamic properties of mitochondria over a century before. The genetic dissection of mitochondrial fusion, fission, and positioning within cells cemented our understanding of the essential nature of this plasticity in health and disease. Loss of either mitochondrial fusion or fission causes embryonic lethality in mice, and mutations in a number of the core fusion/fission machines were identified in patients with neurodegenerative disease. From these early studies, there has been a rapid expansion of research into mitochondrial dynamics within diverse fields of interest, in various model systems. This review will focus on recent work investigating the mechanisms of mitochondrial fusion, where new findings are challenging some longstanding assumptions. We hope to highlight some essential remaining questions and generate a framework for future studies.

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