An explosion of new information about mitochondria reveals that their importance extends well beyond their time-honored function as the "powerhouse of the cell." In this Perspectives article, we summarize new evidence showing that mitochondria are at the center of a reactive oxygen species (ROS)-dependent pathway governing the response to hypoxia and to mitochondrial quality control. The potential role of the mitochondrial genome as a sentinel molecule governing cytotoxic responses of lung cells to ROS stress also is highlighted. Additional attention is devoted to the fate of damaged mitochondrial DNA relative to its involvement as a damage-associated molecular pattern driving adverse lung and systemic cell responses in severe illness or trauma. Finally, emerging strategies for replenishing normal populations of mitochondria after damage, either through promotion of mitochondrial biogenesis or via mitochondrial transfer, are discussed.