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Biological Chemistry

Editor-in-Chief: Brüne, Bernhard

Editorial Board: Buchner, Johannes / Lei, Ming / Ludwig, Stephan / Thomas, Douglas D. / Turk, Boris / Wittinghofer, Alfred

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Volume 396, Issue 11


Biogenesis of mitochondrial outer membrane proteins, problems and diseases

Lars Ellenrieder
  • Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ZBMZ, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
  • Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Christoph U. Mårtensson
  • Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ZBMZ, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
  • Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
/ Thomas Becker
  • Corresponding author
  • Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ZBMZ, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
  • BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2015-05-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hsz-2015-0170


Proteins of the mitochondrial outer membrane are synthesized as precursors on cytosolic ribosomes and sorted via internal targeting sequences to mitochondria. Two different types of integral outer membrane proteins exist: proteins with a transmembrane β-barrel and proteins embedded by a single or multiple α-helices. The import pathways of these two types of membrane proteins differ fundamentally. Precursors of β-barrel proteins are first imported across the outer membrane via the translocase of the outer membrane (TOM complex). The TOM complex is coupled to the sorting and assembly machinery (SAM complex), which catalyzes folding and membrane insertion of these precursors. The mitochondrial import machinery (MIM complex) promotes import of proteins with multiple α-helical membrane spans. Depending on the topology precursors of proteins with a single α-helical membrane anchor are imported via several distinct routes. We summarize current models and open questions of biogenesis of mitochondrial outer membrane proteins and discuss the impact of malfunctions of protein sorting on the development of diseases.

Keywords: MIM complex; mitochondria; outer membrane; protein import; SAM complex; TOM complex


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About the article

Lars Ellenrieder

Lars Ellenrieder studied Molecular Medicine at the University of Freiburg. Currently, he is a PhD student in the group of Thomas Becker, studying protein biogenesis and protein complex formation of the mitochondrial outer membrane.

Christoph U. Mårtensson

Christoph U. Mårtensson studied Molecular Life Science at the University of Lübeck and was Erasmus student at Imperial College London. Currently, he is a PhD student in the group of Thomas Becker and is working on the characterization of novel interaction partners of the TOM and MIM complexes.

Thomas Becker

Thomas Becker, PhD, received his training at the Universities of Kiel, Munich and Freiburg. Since 2009 he has been group leader (Assistant Professor) at the University of Freiburg. Research areas: mitochondrial protein sorting, protein networks and cytosolic protein targeting.

Corresponding author: Thomas Becker, Institute for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ZBMZ, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany; and BIOSS Centre for Biological Signalling Studies, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany, e-mail:

Received: 2015-04-30

Accepted: 2015-05-08

Published Online: 2015-05-14

Published in Print: 2015-11-01

Citation Information: Biological Chemistry, Volume 396, Issue 11, Pages 1199–1213, ISSN (Online) 1437-4315, ISSN (Print) 1431-6730, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/hsz-2015-0170.

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