In 1890 german biologist Richard Altmann observed mitochondria in cells and named them the “Bioplasten.” Mitochondria are everyone’s favorite cell organelle. Unfortunately we never have enough time in class to discuss thoroughly these fascinating cells. Wait a minute, ….these are cells? Well I am going to go out on a limb and say that these are obligate endocytobiotic bacteria. However this phenomena is not that unusual because more and more endocytobiotic bacteria are being described.
So I thought we would use this blog to collect information about these interesting creatures. Lets start with their abundance. If these are intracellular bacteria then they are perhaps the most numerous bacteria on earth with estimates of 1026. This may represent a good portion of all bacteria on earth. In fact we could estimate that the mitochondria from one person, Henrietta Lacks, may be one of the most abundant bacteria on earth, with estimates of 1017. (Pallen, Trends in Microbiology, 2011)
Who was Henrietta Lacks?
From WikiPedia:Henrietta Lacks (August 18, 1920 – October 4, 1951) was an African American woman who was the unwitting source of cells from her cancerous tumor, which were cultured by George Otto Gey to
The story of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating one and was published in a book last year. Many many researchers have grown her cells and used them in research, thus her mitochondria are very abundant on earth; some suspended in a timeless state in freezers all over the world.
One scientist suggests that we name the mitochondrian bacteria as Mitochondrian lacksi.
So here is the first set of questions about mitochondria.
1 What are the current theories regarding the origin of mitochondria?
2 What is the structure of the mitochondrial membrane?
3 Mitochondria provide several functions in cells, what are they?
4 What bacteria do mitochondria resemble the most?
5 Do all cells have mitochondria?
6 Why do mitochondria have DNA?