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Stan, Tincuta (2003): The Translocase of the Outer Membrane of Mitochondria (TOM complex): Recognition of Mitochondrial Targeting Signals. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Biology
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Abstract

The TOM complex, a multisubunit assembly in the mitochondrial outer membrane, mediates targeting and membrane translocation of virtually all nuclear-encoded mitochondrial preproteins analyzed so far. In the present study the mechanisms by which the TOM complex recognizes different precursor proteins and translocates them across the outer membrane were investigated. In a first part of study the isolated TOM complex was analyzed for its ability to interact with preproteins with N-terminal targeting signals. The TOM translocase was found to bind precursor proteins efficiently in a specific manner in the absence of chaperones and lipids in a bilayer structure. Following the initial binding, the presequence was transferred into the translocation pore in a step that required unfolding of the mature part of the preprotein. This translocation step was mediated also by protease-treated TOM holo complex that contains almost exclusively Tom40. The TOM core complex consisting of Tom40, Tom22, Tom5, Tom6 and Tom7 represents a molecular machine that can recognize and partially translocate mitochondrial precursor proteins. In a second part of study the interaction of BCS1 precursor with the TOM complex was investigated. BCS1 belongs to the group of proteins with internal, non-cleavable import signals. The information for import and intramitochondrial sorting of BCS1 was localized to the region consisting of amino acid residues 1-126. Three sequence elements were identified in this region: (i) a transmembrane domain (amino acid residues 45-68), (ii) a presequence-like helix (residues 69-83), and (iii) an import-auxiliary sequence (residues 84-126). The contribution of each of these elements to import was studied. The transmembrane domain was found not to be required for stable binding to the TOM complex. The Tom receptors (Tom70, Tom22 and Tom20), as determined by peptide scan analysis, had no affinity for peptides corresponding to the transmembrane domain. They did interact with the presequence-like helix, yet the highest binding was to the region covering residues 92-126. This latter region represents a novel type of signal with targeting and sorting function. It is recognized by all three known mitochondrial import receptors demonstrating their capacity to decode various targeting signals. The results of the present study suggest that the BCS1 precursor crosses the TOM complex as a loop structure. This is in contrast to preproteins with cleavable presequences which enter the TOM complex in a linear fashion with the N-terminal first. Once the precursor emerges from the TOM complex, all three structural elements are essential for the intramitochondrial sorting to the inner membrane.