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Neupert, Walter (1994): Transport of proteins across mitochondrial membranes. In: The Clinical Investigator, Vol. 72, No. 4: pp. 251-261
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Abstract

The vast majority of proteins comprising the mitochondrion are encoded by nuclear genes, synthesized on ribosomes in the cytosol, and translocated into the various mitochondrial subcompartments. During this process proteins must cross the lipid membranes of the mitochondrion without interfering with the integrity or functions of the organelle. In recent years an approach combining biochemical, molecular, genetic, and morphological methodology has provided insights into various aspects of this complex process of intracellular protein sorting. In particular, a greater understanding of the molecular specificity and mechanism of targeting of mitochondrial preproteins has been reached, as a protein complex of the outer membrane which facilitates recognition and initial membrane insertion has been identified and characterized. Furthermore, pathways and components involved in the translocation of preproteins across the two mitochondrial membranes are being dissected and defined. The energetics of translocation and the processes of unfolding and folding of proteins during transmembrane transfer are closely linked to the function of a host of proteins known as heat-shock proteins or molecular chaperones, present both outside and inside the mitochondrion. In addition, the analysis of the process of folding of polypeptides in the mitochondrial matrix has allowed novel and unexpected insights into general pathways of protein folding assisted by folding factors. Pathways of sorting of proteins to the four different mitochondrial subcompartments — the outer membrane (OM), intermembrane space, inner membrane (IM) and matrix — are only partly understood and reveal an amazing complexity and variation. Many additional protein factors are involved in these latter processes, a few of which have been analyzed, such as cytochrome c heme lyase and cytochrome c 1 heme lyase, enzymes that catalyze the covalent addition of the heme group to cytochrome c and c 1 preproteins, and the mitochondrial processing peptidase which cleaves signal sequence after import of preproteins into the matrix. Thus, the study of transport of polypeptides through the mitochondrial membranes does not only contribute to the understanding of how biological membranes facilitate the penetration of macromolecules but also provides novel insights into the structure and function of this organelle. are being dissected and defined. The energetics of translocation and the processes of unfolding and folding of proteins during transmembrane transfer are closely linked to the function of a host of proteins known as heat-shock proteins or molecular chaperones, present both outside and inside the mitochondrion. In addition, the analysis of the process of folding of polypeptides in the mitochondrial matrix has allowed novel and unexpected insights into general pathways of protein folding assisted by folding factors. Pathways of sorting of proteins to the four different mitochondrial subcompartments — the outer membrane (OM), intermembrane space, inner membrane (IM) and matrix — are only partly understood and reveal an amazing complexity and variation. Many additional protein factors are involved in these latter processes, a few of which have been analyzed, such as cytochrome c heme lyase and cytochrome c 1 heme lyase, enzymes that catalyze the covalent addition of the heme group to cytochrome c and c 1 preproteins, and the mitochondrial processing peptidase which cleaves signal sequences after import of preproteins into the matrix. Thus, the study of transport of polypeptides through the mitochondrial membranes does not only contribute to the understanding of how biological membranes facilitate the penetration of macromolecules but also provides novel insights into the structure and function of this organelle.