What Do Cristae Do for Mitochondria?

Cristae are folded structures of the inner membrane of mitochondria that create more space to allow for a faster production of energy. They are key to the process that helps release energy during cellular respiration.

Mitochondria are the organelles where cellular respiration takes place, which is the process that generates chemical energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, from sugar. ATP is the compound that transports energy within cells, and the primary form of sugar involved in the process is glucose, according to Biology Reference.

Definition of cristae

Mitochondria feature two membranes that create distinct compartments within the organelles, as described by Rice University. While the outer membrane is relatively simple, the inner membrane comprises infolding structures called cristae.

Function of cristae

The organized layers of folds that characterize cristae greatly increase the total surface area of the inner membrane of mitochondria. The larger surface area means that there is more space for the series of compounds that make up the electron transport system to carry out the process of releasing food particles in the cell to generate energy. These features of cristae allow for a faster production of ATP in the inner membrane of the mitochondria during the final stages of cellular respiration.