Editor-in-Chief: Brüne, Bernhard
Editorial Board: Buchner, Johannes / Lei, Ming / Ludwig, Stephan / Thomas, Douglas D. / Turk, Boris / Wittinghofer, Alfred
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Mitochondrial protein import pathways are functionally conserved among eukaryotes despite compositional diversity of the import machineries
- Department of Parasitology, Ruprecht-Karls University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 324, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany
- Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
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Mitochondrial protein import (MPI) is essential for the biogenesis of mitochondria in all eukaryotes. Current models of MPI are predominantly based on experiments with one group of eukaryotes, the opisthokonts. Although fascinating genome database-driven hypotheses on the evolution of the MPI machineries have been published, previous experimental research on non-opisthokonts usually focused on the analysis of single pathways or components in, for example, plants and parasites. In this study, we have established the kinetoplastid parasite Leishmania tarentolae as a model organism for the comprehensive analysis of non-opisthokont MPI into all four mitochondrial compartments. We found that opisthokont marker proteins are efficiently imported into isolated L. tarentolae mitochondria. Vice versa, L. tarentolae marker proteins of all compartments are also imported into mitochondria from yeast. The results are remarkable because only a few of the more than 25 classical components of the opisthokont MPI machineries are found in parasite genome databases. Our results demonstrate that different MPI pathways are functionally conserved among eukaryotes despite significant compositional differences of the MPI machineries. Moreover, our model system could lead to the identification of significantly altered or even novel MPI components in non-opisthokonts. Such differences might serve as starting points for drug development against parasitic protists.
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