Integrate: The project revealing the secrets of mitochondria launched thanks to the 2.5M euro ERC Grant


Known as the "powerhouse" of cells, mitochondria play a vital role in maintaining the health and well-being of our cells. But how do they kept their shape, and what are the mechanisms that preserve their functionality?

The Integrate project by Luca Scorrano, professor of Biochemistry at the Department of Biology of the University of Padua and principal investigator at the Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine (VIMM), receives funding from the European Research Council with approximately 2.5 million euros. The project aims to reveal the secrets of the control processes of mitochondrial quality.

Mitochondria are responsible for a series of crucial functions for the cell, including the metabolism of nutrients, cellular response to external stimuli, and cell death. Quality control of these organelles is essential to ensure the correct functioning of our cells and, consequently, of our body as a whole. While we know that several processes contribute to the quality of mitochondria, the specific factors that trigger these processes remain a mystery.

Prof Scorrano explains, “The Integrate project aims to unravel this mystery by revealing the secrets of mitochondrial quality control. When mitochondrial proteins become damaged, they stick to each other and form protein aggregates that are toxic to mitochondria. Thanks to a multidisciplinary approach that uses cutting-edge techniques to visualize these protein aggregates within mitochondria Integrate aims to shed light on how they influence mitochondria and cells. Preliminary discoveries from our laboratory have revealed that protein aggregates are not randomly distributed within mitochondria but accumulate in specific locations. For example, some aggregates accumulate at opposite poles of a mitochondrion, from where they are selectively eliminated to repair this mitochondrion."

Understanding these processes may have important implications for human health. Indeed, Integrate will not only clarify how mitochondria and cells function but could offer new avenues for the therapy and prevention of neurodegenerative or age-related diseases where mitochondrial quality control becomes compromised.