DUNN LAB

Mitochondria are found in virtually all cells that contain a nucleus. These special compartments play a major role in the conversion of food into usable energy for the cell. Mitochondria are also the location of other, essential cellular processes.

Mitochondria contain DNA (mtDNA) which, unlike most of our genetic code, is inherited only from our mother. Nearly one in 5000 people inherit mtDNA mutations that can cause disease. Others are afflicted with mtDNA-associated disease after long-term treatment with anti-viral or anti-cancer agents. Throughout our lifespan, we accumulate damage to our mtDNA, raising the possibility that mtDNA damage is a cause of aging. For all of these reasons and more, it is of the highest importance to understand the consequences of mtDNA damage at the cellular level.

Toward a better understanding of mitochondria-associated disease, our laboratory studies how cells respond to and survive after mtDNA mutation. For these studies, we use the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, an incredibly useful experimental system in which much knowledge of mitochondrial assembly and function was first acquired. One long term aim of our laboratory is to find genetic and pharmacological methods by which we can increase the fitness of human cells with impaired mitochondria.

This laboratory is funded by an ERC Starting Grant.