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Mitochondria- The organelle most crucial to the functioning of living organisms

Whilst all organelles are important to the overall functioning of their cell it can be said the the mitochondrias
involvement in energy production amongst other roles makes it the most
crucial organelle in relation to the overall day to day functioning of living
Figure 1, a simplified diagram of the
organisms.
mitochondria structure
(London Health Sciences, 2011)

Mitochondria float freely throughout the cell cytoplasm and have been noted
to present in larger quantities within cells, such as muscle tissue, that have higher
energy demands. The mitochondrion consists of two membranes; an outer membrane
and an inner membrane as well as a fluid substance called the matrix (See figure 1)
The outer membrane simply covers the organelle, separating its internal structure and
the matrix from the cytoplasm in the rest of the cell. The inner membrane however, is
extremely important to the functioning of the cell. The inner membrane of the
mitochondria folds over multiple times to create layered structures called cristae. It is
in these cristae that the biochemical processes which create adenosine triphosphate
(ATP), (the chemical responsible for storing and transporting energy). The way in
which the mitochondria converts organic molecules into chemical energy is a
complicated process but it can be simplified to an extent. The first step in ATP production is called glycolysis
and involves the molecule glucose splitting into two pyruvate molecules, these pyruvate molecules are then
converted into Acetyl-CoA. The Acetyl-CoA then undergoes a further reactions leaving it in the form of two
molecules; NADH and FADH2. The molecules left over from the Krebs Cycle (NADH and FADH2) then
become oxidized and as a result their molecular structure is altered, eg. NADH NAD+ + 2H+ + 2 electrons.
The inner membrane of the mitochondria is studded with a number of enzymes. These 2 leftover electrons then
jump from enzyme to enzyme and through a number of additional steps ATP is finally produced,
(Khanacademy Medicine, 2015) This process of ATP production is one of the reasons the mitochondria can be
considered as the most important organelle in relation to the functioning of organisms.
If mitochondria were not present within the cell it would have no way to produce energy and as a result of not
being able to repair, defend against pathogens, or simply function this cell would die. ATP essentially powers
every activity of the cell and organism and without this source of energy the cell would have no way to power
other chemical reactions such as protein synthesis and protein modification. (Bergman 1992, para.2) As well as
this, the mitochondria also plays a large part in deciding whether a cell will die by necrosis (Natural death) or
apoptosis (Programmed cell death), this is done when a mitochondrion releases the chemical cytochrome c
which triggers cell death if necessary. Apoptosis is an extremely important process and without the
mitochondria regulating this function cells that are old, diseased or damaged will continue to replicate and
spread throughout the body. Inadequate programmed cell death can lead to the spread of cancer or, for instance
babies born with fingers still joined (Gereld 2015, pg. 174) It is argued by some that the nucleus in fact is the
most important organelle rather than the mitochondria. This argument is based on the fact that the mitochondria
needs the genetic information stored within the nucleus to know how much energy to produce, at what times
and in which cells, while this is true it is possible that the mitochondria can function independently were the
nucleus not existent. As a result of mitochondrion having being independent living organisms more than
200,000 years ago they contain their own genetic information, known as mtDNA. Although nuclear DNA
would potentially still be needed to function completely it is likely mitochondrion could complete certain
reaction using its own mtDNA (Policella 2013, para. 1) Whilst the value of the nucleus should not be
undermined in any way, the mitochondria plays the most prominent and important role in eukaryotic cells and
the fact that this organelle may be able function independently only supports this statement.
The nucleus plays a crucial role in ribosomal synthesis, cellular activity control, and genetic storage and
therefore it can be arguably stated that it is the second most important organelle. The nucleus main structure
consists of a nuclear envelope, the chromatin, as well as a nucleolus. Both the mitochondria and the nucleus are
similar in the way they possess both an outer and and inner membrane. In the nucleus this double membrane is
referred to as the nuclear envelope, these membranes most crucial function is to separate the genetic
information within the nucleus from the cell cytoplasm, as well as to prevent passage of macro-molecules
between the nucleoplasm and cytoplasm. The nuclear envelope is perforated with pores, these nuclear pores

are responsible for regulating the passage of molecules between the nucleus and the rest of the cell. The outer
membrane of the mitochondria also regulates molecular passage. Both the mitochondria and the nucleus contain
genetic information, in the nucleus this genetic information is stored in the form of chromatin. Chromatin exist
in two forms known as euchromatin and heterochromatin, this genetic information is used to control cellular
activities as well as code to produce different proteins. The nucleolus is a part of the organelle unique solely to
the nucleus, its major roles include ribosome assembly and chromosome organization. The nucleus most
notable function is that of coordinating cell activities, a task completely dissimilar to that of energy production
undertaken within the mitochondria. Successful coordination of cell activities is achieved through the nucleus
coding for different proteins at different times throughout different cells. However, all organelles rely on ATP to
operate and function, the nucleus is no exception. Without the mitochondria producing this ATP the nucleus
would have no source of energy to perform such functions and as a result this organelle would be useless
(Scitable-Eukaryotic Cells, 2014)
Another organelle vital to the functioning of cells is the ribosome. The ribosome is responsible for creating
proteins using different combinations and quantities of amino acids. Ribosomal structure is not at all easily
comparable to the mitochondria- they share no common characteristics structure wise. Ribosomes consists of
two subunits; one subunit is larger than the other. The smaller subunit is made up of ribosomal RNA as well as
approximately thirty-three proteins, the larger subunit however consists of three ribosomal RNAs and fortynine proteins (Biology Reference- Ribosome 2016) As stated before, the prime function of ribosomes within
eukaryotic cells is to construct proteins using chains of amino acids known as peptides. In order to create these
proteins, the ribosome needs the correct DNA information. As the DNA itself never leaves the nucleus,
messenger RNA (mRNA) is sent out to the ribosome. The ribosome uses the codons (small collections of
nucleotides) of this mRNA as a template to organize and determine the correct amino acid sequences. The
molecule responsible for the presentation of the amino acids to the ribosomes is called transfer RNA (tRNA).
The codon which is complimentary to the anti codon at the bottom of the tRNA decides which amino acid the
tRna will transport to the ribosome. (Khanacademy Medicine, 2015) Mitochondria and ribosomes both create
chemicals which are beneficial to living organisms, although it is the ATP produced in the mitochondria that is
of greater value to the cell. Whilst ribosomal protein synthesis is significant to the functioning of a living cell it
is also entirely dependent on nucleic function to operate, it is the independent energy production undertaken
within the mitochondria that is of greater significance to overall cellular function.
The Golgi Apparatus is an organelle found close to the endoplasmic reticulum and, whilst not widely
considered as being the most important organelle, it is nonetheless a very important feature of eukaryotic cells.
The Golgi Apparatus (sometimes referred to as Golgi Bodies) main function is that of protein modification and
molecule synthesis as well as the delivery of these proteins after they have undertaken this modification. The
general structure of Golgi bodies is slightly similar to the
Figure 1.2, A labelled diagram demonstrating the
structure of the internal membranes of mitochondria in the fact
basic structure of the Golgi apparatus.
that both are layered and membranous however the similarities
(K, Rogers 2016)
between the two organelles ends there. The membrane folds that
the Golgi bodies consists of are termed cisternae and although
they are layered as mitochondrias are, they are more comparable
to sacks. The Golgi Apparatus is made up of multiple cisternae, the
cisternae facing the endoplasmic reticulum is known as the cis
face and the cisternae on the opposite side are known as the trans
face refer to figure 1.2 .The cisternae positioned at the cis face
are referred to as the cis Golgi network, it is here that the
proteins and lipids first arrive to be taken into the lumen (the inner
space of the cisternae). Once inside the lumen these proteins and
lipids will move from the cis face to the trans face as they are
being modified into fully functional molecule, at the end of the
modification process these proteins will be tagged so that an end
point or destination for this molecule is identified. Whilst the Golgi apparatus, like all organelles, plays an
important role in keeping organisms functioning and alive it is not the most crucial to the survival of these
systems. The Golgi apparatus would be useless were the mitochondria not present to create the energy
necessary for the proteins to be modified, tagged and sent.

Whilst all organelles are important to the overall functioning of their cell it can be said the the mitochondrias
involvement in energy production amongst other roles makes it the most crucial organelle in relation to the
overall day to day functioning of living organisms.
All organelles are important to the running of cells, but it is the mitochondria that is of greatest importance. The
mitochondrion is responsible for the production of energy in the form of ATP. Without this ATP living
organisms as well as other organelles cannot function correctly. The mitochondria is the organelle that is most
crucial to the functioning of living organisms.

References- Alphabetically Ordered


Gerald, M &Gerald, G 2015, The Biology Book, Sterling,
Galganska, H 2016 Communication Between Mitochondria and Nucleus, Science Direct, viewed 19th February
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0005272810000502
Khan Academy Medicine 2015, Endoplasmic Reticulum and Golgi Bodies , Online Video, Viewed 18th
February 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UqtgH_Zy1Y
Khan Academy Medicine 2015, Mitochondria, Online Video, Viewed 18th February 2015,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7IxN3EDqm4&spfreload=10
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6gtCQUhNGk
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGeC0ntvxR8
Mitochondrion - Biology Encyclopedia - Cells, Body, Function, Human, Process, Animal, System, Organisms,
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http://www.biologyreference.com/Ma-Mo/Mitochondrion.html
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2016 http://bscb.org/learning-resources/softcell-e-learning/mitochondrion-much-more-than-an-energyconverter/
Overview Of Krebs Reactions, Electron Transport, And Oxidative Phosphorylation By Mitochondria.
Experimental Biosciences 2007, viewed 10th February 2016 http://www.biologyreference.com/MaMo/Mitochondrion.html
Rogers, K 2016 Golgi Apparatus, Britannica Encyclopedia, viewed 15th February
http://www.britannica.com/science/Golgi-apparatus
The Nucleus and Ribosomes Boundless.com, viewed 12th February 2016
https://www.boundless.com/biology/textbooks/boundless-biology-textbook/cell-structure-4/eukaryotic-cells60/the-nucleus-and-ribosomes-315-11449/