Copyright

Mitochondria Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lauren Scott

Lauren has a Master's degree in special education and has taught for more than 10 years.

This science lesson will give you an overview of mitochondria, which act as the powerhouses of cells. You will learn about their origins, their structure, and the important roles they play inside cells.

Introduction to Mitochondria

You may already know that you need to eat in order to have energy. The food you ingest gets broken down inside your digestive system so it can be used by your body. But, where does it go from there? How do the cells in your body use that digested food? They get the fuel they need from a small organelle, or cell part, called a mitochondrion. The plural form of this word is 'mitochondria'.

The mitochondria in these mouse cells are shown in green.
mitochondria

Mitochondria are found inside the cells of animals, plants, and fungi. Some cells have lots of mitochondria, and others do not. It depends on how much energy the cells need.

Researchers have found that mitochondria used to be a type of primitive, free-living bacteria, but were somehow 'swallowed' by these larger cells.

Basic Structure

Mitochondria are tiny, elongated structures. They have an outer membrane that protects them. Mitochondria also have a folded inner membrane (the part of the image below labeled 'cristae') that creates a good workspace for energy production.

Structure of Mitochondria
mitochondria

Power Up!

Mitochondria are often called the powerhouses of cells. This is because they take larger molecules, like carbohydrates and fatty acids, and break them down to produce energy the cells can use. That energy source is called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP.

Mitochondrial DNA

Each of our cells has a nucleus, which is like the brain of the cell. The nucleus is packed with molecules of DNA, which determine how our tissues and organs develop and determine traits like eye color and height. Mitochondria are special because they contain their own DNA, which is called mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA. mtDNA tells the cell how to produce ATP and also directs the early stages of protein formation.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create An Account
Support