Source: Medicalexpress.com; NYU School of Medicine / Photo: Mitochondria (credit: Wikipedia commons)

(NEW YORK, N.Y.) — Researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center have discovered that mitochondria, the major energy source for most cells, also play an important role in stem cell development—a purpose notably distinct from the tiny organelle’s traditional job as the cell’s main source of the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) energy needed for routine cell metabolism.

Specifically, the NYU Langone team found that blocking the action of the mitochondrial ATP synthase enzyme stalled egg cell development from stem cells in experiments in fruit flies, one of the main organisms used to study cell biology.

In further experiments with the flies, the research team found that ATP synthase was essential to normal stem cell development, directly controlling the growth and maintenance of the inner membranes inside mitochondria, called cristae, as the cells continue to divide and form the specific cell components that make up an egg, or female germ cell.

The study findings are to be published in the journal Nature Cell Biology online April 27.

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