Beyond mitochondria: Alternative energy-producing pathways from all strata of life
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It is well-established that mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the universal energy currency. However, the most significant strengths of the electron transport chain (ETC), its intricacy and efficiency, are also its greatest downfalls. A reliance on metal complexes (FeS clusters, hemes), lipid moities such as cardiolipin, and cofactors including alpha-lipoic acid and quinones render oxidative phosphorylation vulnerable to environmental toxins, intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) and fluctuations in diet. To that effect, it is of interest to note that temporal disruptions in ETC activity in most organisms are rarely fatal, and often a redundant number of failsafes are in place to permit continued ATP production when needed. Here, we highlight the metabolic reconfigurations discovered in organisms ranging from parasitic Entamoeba to bacteria such as pseudomonads and then complex eukaryotic systems that allow these species to adapt to and occasionally thrive in harsh environments. The overarching aim of this review is to demonstrate the plasticity of metabolic networks and recognize that in times of duress, life finds a way.
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