5 Animal Cell Mitochondria Functions: Facts You Should Know

This article would focus on establishing various detailed facts about animal cell mitochondria functions along with different activities presented by mitochondria. 

Mitochondria are identified as the subcellular organelles which are engaged in the production of the majority of cellular energy by utilising the oxidative phosphorylation process. 

What are Mitochondria?

Mitochondria can be described as the membrane-bound organelles which is found in all animal cells and engages in producing the maximum amount of chemical energy that would be needed in powering the various biochemical reactions that are occurring within the cells.  

Mitochondria is popularly identified as the “PowerHouse” of the cells as they engage in the process of converting the food that is being taken in the body into effective energy that can be used by the cells in managing other reactions to process various other functions. It is important for survival. 

Even though the best known function of mitochondria is the production of energy, there are a series of other important sets of functions that are processed by mitochondria  which includes signalling between cells, apoptosis and more. 

animal cell mitochondria functions
Mitochondria from Pixabay

Mitochondria with own genetic system 

Mitochondria has been identified as the organelle which has a unique genetic system, called the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). This mtDNA is small in size and has the self-replicating ability with a diverse genome. 

The mtDNA has been identified to have made significant contributions for the past thirty years in the branch of molecular ecology as well as phylogeography due to its unique system of mitochondrial-nuclear genomic cooperation. 

Mitochondria has been identified to be contributing only 3% of its total genes in the production of energy and its associated equipment. The majority of the genes within Mitochondria are involved in performing other sets of functions which are mostly specific to cell types. 

There are 37 genes present in the mitochondrial DNA which helps to facilitate various functions. Out of these genes, 13 of them engage in providing the important instructions in producing enzymes that would be required in the process of oxidative phosphorylation. 

The other sets of genes engage in providing necessary instructions to make molecules known as the transfer RNA and ribosomal RNA. These RNAs are identified to be important in assembling amino acids which are protein building blocks into functioning sets of proteins. 

Mitochondria in Producing Energy

Mitochondria engage in converting the chemical form of energy from the food being eaten into the form of energy which is usable by the cells. The process used in the conversion of energy is termed as oxidative phosphorylation. The site of production of this energy within mitochondria is in the folds or cristae of the inner membrane.

The converted energy by mitochondria is stored in the form of ATP which is a complex organic chemical and is the unit of energy in all forms of life. ATP ensures the power of the metabolic processes in the cells. The production of ATP within mitochondria is facilitated through processes like citric acid cycle, also known as Krebs cycle. 

The Kreb cycle also produces the chemical component called the NADH which are further used by the enzymes within the cristae of mitochondria to produce ATP. The energy within the molecules of ATP is stored in the form of chemical bonds. The energy is used by breaking the chemical bonds.

Mitochondria in Cell death

Cell death is also termed as apoptosis which is an essential function in the span of life. It is important to clear out or destroy the cells that have become old or are broken in order to be restored by a new set of cells. The cell organelles release cytochrome C which further activates caspase which is among the chief enzymes necessary for destroying unwanted cells through apoptosis. 

this way mitochondria plays an important role in deciding the cells that are to be destroyed. Few of the diseases like cancer interfere with the normal process of apoptosis and mitochondria has been identified to have a significant role in the disease. 

Mitochondria in storing calcium

Calcium is identified to be important for a series of cellular processes which includes the release of calcium back into the cells can lead to the initiation of releasing neurotransmitters from the nerve cells or various hormones from different endocrine cells. 

Calcium is important in the body for effective muscle functioning, proper fertilisation and blood clotting. Other roles include ensuring regulation of cellular metabolism, effective synthesis of steroid and hormone signaling.

The critical role of calcium ensures effective regulation of calcium in the cells. Mitochondria is essential as they engage in absorbing excess calcium ions and hold the ions until they are further needed. 

Mitochondria in heat production

Feeling cold leads to shivering of the body to generate warmth but heat is also generated through other processes like by utilising a tissue called brown fat. There is a process identified as proton leak where mitochondria can generate heat. This process is identified as non-shivering thermogenesis. Brown fat is maximum in babies and gets reduced with age. 


This can be concluded that there are variety of animal cell mitochondria functions that help in controlling numerous processes like conducting apoptosis, producing heat and storing calcium, but the most important function remains to be energy production.

Also Read: