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Harmey, Matthew A.; Neher, Eva-Maria; Zimmermann, Richard; Neupert, Walter (1980): Assembly of mitochondria. Synthesis and intracellular transfer of mitochondrial proteins. In: Biosystems: Journal of Biological and Information Processing Sciences, Vol. 12, No. 3-4: pp. 283-287


The majority of mitochondrial proteins are synthesized on cytoplasmic ribosomes and transferred to the mitochondria where they are assembled to supramolecular structures. The intracellular transfer of these proteins appears to occur by a post-translational mechanism, i.e., it involves extramitochondrial precursor forms which are translocated in a step independent from translation. The synthesis and transfer of individual proteins was investigated in vivo, or in vitro employing homologous and heterologous cell free systems for protein synthesis. Cytochrome c was initially made as the apoprotein. This precursor protein was converted to the holoprotein on uptake by mitochondria in reconstituted systems. Integrity of mitochondria was essential for the apo to holo conversion. In the case of the ADP/ATP carrier protein, an integral transmembrane protein of the inner mitochondrial membrane, the initial translation product had the same apparent molecular weight as the mature protein. It was found in soluble form in the post-ribosomal supernatant. Citrate synthase, a matrix protein, was synthesized as a precursor with an apparent molecular weight of 47 000. Transfer to the mitochondria was accompanied by cleavage to yield a molecular weight of 45 000. The significance of these results in relation to the mechanisms of intracellular transfer and of assembly of the individual proteins is discussed.