© 2014 S. Karger AG, Basel.
Atherosclerosis is a complex disease which can be described as an excessive fibrofatty, proliferative, inflammatory response to damage to the artery wall involving several cell types such as smooth muscle cells, monocyte-derived macrophages, lymphocytes, dendritic cells and platelets. On the other hand, atherosclerosis is a typical age-related degenerative pathology, which is characterized by signs of cell senescence in the arterial wall including reduced cell proliferation, irreversible growth arrest and apoptosis, increased DNA damage, the presence of epigenetic modifications, shortening of telomere length and mitochondrial dysfunction. The most prominent characteristics of mitochondrial aging are their structural alterations and mitochondrial DNA damage. The mechanisms of mitochondrial genome damage in the development of chronic age-related diseases such as atherosclerosis are not yet well understood. This review focuses on the latest findings from studies of those mutations of the mitochondrial genome which may play an important role in the development of atherosclerosis and which are, at the same time, also markers of mitochondrial aging and cell senescence.