Mitochondria: Hot Stuff!

“YOUR body might not get much higher than 37°C on a normal day, but it turns out that the insides of
our cells can reach close to 50°C.

The mitochondria in our cells burn food to produce energy. Unlike a fire, this is a controlled process involving several steps, but it still generates a lot of heat.

Now Pierre Rustin of INSERM in France and colleagues have used a protein that fluoresces less as the temperature rises to measure the temperature inside the mitochondria of human kidney and skin cells kept at 38°C.

They found that mitochondria operate at temperatures around 6 to 10°C higher than the rest of the cell (bioRxiv,

The finding makes sense, says Nick Lane at University College London. “Mitochondria are the main sources of heat, and they have to be hotter than the rest of the body,” he says. “I’d never really thought of that before.”” (New Scientist, 2017, p.18).


New Scientist (2017) In Brief: Mitochondria Burn at High Heat. New Scientist. 13 May 2017.

Chretien, D., Benit, P. Ha, H-H., Keipert, S., El-Khoury, R., CHang, Y-T., Jastroch, M., Jacobs, H., Rustin, P. & Rak, M. (2017) Mitochondria Are Physiologically Maintained At Close To 50 C. bioRxiv: The Preprint Server for Biology. doi:


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