For decades, mitochondria have been primarily viewed as biosynthetic and bioenergetic organelles generating metabolites for the production of macromolecules and ATP, respectively. Dr. Chandel’s work has elucidated that mitochondria have a third distinct role whereby they participate in cellular signaling processes through the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and metabolites independent of ATP and macromolecule production. Our work has implicated the necessity of mitochondrial ROS for multiple biological processes including hypoxic activation of HIFs, cellular differentiation, and adaptive immunity. Previously, the dogma in the field had been that mitochondrial ROS are only produced in pathological settings to cause both lipid, protein and DNA damage. However, our work demonstrates that mitochondrial ROS are utilized as messengers to maintain normal biological and physiological functions. Our studies suggest that the current widespread use of antioxidants is likely to be detrimental rather than beneficial for alleviating a myriad of diseases as this could interfere with normal physiological processes. Recently, our work has shown that mitochondria release the metabolite L-2HG, which increases histone and DNA methylation to control hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) differentiation and regulatory T cell (Treg) function, respectively. In summary, our lab has been instrumental in changing our view of mitochondria from the “powerhouses” of cell to “signaling organelles”. Beyond metabolites and ROS, there are multiple ways mitochondria function as signaling organelles (see figure).

On the web


Headshot of Nav Chandel wearing a white collared shirt and a dark blazer

Nav Chandel, PhD

Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics


Navdeep S. Chandel (Nav) is the David W. Cugell Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry, and Molecular Genetics at Northwestern University. He was born in London (UK) and at the age of 1 moved to the town of Shimla (India) located in Himalayan mountains in part due to the rising anti-immigration sentiment in the UK at that time. Subsequently, he moved to Miami, Florida at the age of 10. Subsequently, he received his BA in Mathematics (1991) and Ph.D. in Cell Physiology at the University of Chicago (1993-1997, Paul Schumacker) as well as a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Chicago (1997-1999, jointly with Paul Schumacker and Craig Thompson).  In 2000, he started his laboratory at Northwestern University on the concept of “Mitochondria as signaling organelles”. He has written a widely utilized introductory book entitled “Navigating Metabolism” (Cold Spring Harbor Press). He received NCI outstanding investigator Award in 2016. He has been on Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher list from 2018 to present.   He has been an active member organized many meetings including Cell Symposia, Keystone Symposia, and CSHL meetings. Furthermore, he is an associate editor at Journal of Clinical Investigation, Deputy editor at Science Advances and serves on editorial boards of Molecular Cell and Cell Metabolism. Currently, he sits on the NIH/NCI Board of Scientific Counselors (basic sciences) and Pew-Stewart Scholars Advisory Board. He received the Clarence Ver Steeg Faculty Mentor Award, which recognizes individual faculty members from any department throughout Northwestern University for their outstanding efforts in supporting and encouraging the academic and professional development of graduate students.


Navdeep Chandel’s Lab: Studying the Role of Mitochondria in Disease

Navdeep Chandel, Ph.D – “Mitochondrial control of physiology and disease” (Missing 1st 10 mins)