This is basically a fun question, inspired by this answer on scifi.se. So, which cell type will have the greatest number of mitochondria? Obviously, I am talking about wild type, healthy individuals and am looking for a rule of thumb. I realize that the number can change under different conditions/ between different individuals.

Off the top of my head, I would say that it's sperm cells given the strenuous exercise they need to perform and their MT-packed axonemes but perhaps there are better contenders?

I am primarily interested in human cell types but answers dealing with other mammals are welcome.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd expect a correlation between cell size and number of mitochondria. Therefore, my guess is that the ovule has the greatest number of mitochondria. On this wiki article it is said: "the number of mitochondria in a cell varies widely by organism and tissue type. Many cells have only a single mitochondrion, whereas others can contain several thousand mitochondria." and give two book references: Alberts and Voet. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Feb 6, 2014 at 23:41
  • $\begingroup$ Assuming @Remi.b 's correlation between cell size and number of mitochondria, then muscle fibers should win hands down. They are IIRC the largest cells in the body, and they have a need for significant amounts of energy. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Feb 7, 2014 at 5:36
  • $\begingroup$ oocyte, cardiomyocytes, skeletal muscle.. check this: esp page 11.. Oocyte has to provide miotochondria for the embryo.. so i guess it has the most $\endgroup$
    Feb 7, 2014 at 7:06
  • $\begingroup$ To study mitochondria, mitochondria are often isolated from brain, liver and muscles. Mitochondria are abundant in those tissues. $\endgroup$
    – 243
    Jun 28, 2015 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ In terms of number, it could be tricky because sizes of mitochondria vary a lot. $\endgroup$
    – 243
    Jun 28, 2015 at 3:03

1 Answer 1


It's commonly believed that it's muscle cells that have the largest amount of mitochondria, and for good reason. Muscle cells are continually used to move the body, so they have the most mitochondria because of the large energy requirement. If you want to be more specific, the muscle cells of a marathon runner have even more since the muscle cells involved in running need to be able to do a lot of aerobic respiration. Another example is the cells in the heart; the amount of mitochondria makes up 40% of the cell.

The truth is, retinal cells with photoreceptors most likely have the most (80% of the cell volume) since they need to reset the potassium/sodium pump to keep the action potential in the nerves the same.

If you're curious, the cells with the least amount of mitochondria are skin cells and erythrocytes (red blood cells) since skin is just a protective barrier and red blood cells don't need to exert any effort or energy to move.


  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology. It would be great if you could add some references to your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry about that. $\endgroup$
    – hydromend
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ That explains what mitochondria do, but gives no reference for the claims you make. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not able to add any more links because I have limited privileges. $\endgroup$
    – hydromend
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:56
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That's fine, just paste the URL as is and someone can edit it for you. Your answer makes a lot of sense, and I agree that it is very likely going to be muscle cells, but neither of your references support it. They just explain what mitochondria are. I would particularly like to see a reference supporting your claim about photoreceptor cells, that's an interesting point. I can't accept this since you're just giving numbers with no references. $\endgroup$
    – terdon
    Jun 28, 2015 at 8:10

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