Scientists discover a pathway that monitors a protein import into mitochondria | 4/16/2018 | Staff
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If there's one fact that most people retain from elementary biology, it's that mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell. As such, they break down molecules and manufacture new ones to generate the fuel necessary for life. But mitochondria rely on a stream of proteins to sustain this energy production. Nearly all their proteins are manufactured in the surrounding gel-like cytoplasm, and must be imported into the mitochondria to keep the powerhouse running.

A duo of MIT biologists has revealed what happens when a traffic jam of proteins at the surface of the mitochondria prevents proper import. They describe how the mitochondria communicate with the rest of the cell to signal a problem, and how the cell responds to protect the mitochondria. This newly-discovered molecular pathway, called mitoCPR, detects import mishaps and preserves mitochondrial function in the midst of such stress.

Mechanism - Protein - Import - Mitochondria - Proteins

"This is the first mechanism identified that surveils mitochondrial protein import, and helps mitochondria when they can't get the proteins they need," says Angelika Amon, the Kathleen and Curtis Marble Professor of Cancer Research in the MIT Department of Biology, who is also a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and senior author of the study. "Responses to mitochondrial stress have been established before, but this one specifically targets the surface of the mitochondria, clearing out the misfolded proteins that are stuck in the pores."

Hilla Weidberg, a postdoc in Amon's lab, is the lead author of the study, which appears in Science on April 13.

Mitochondria - Entities - Host - Cells - Control

Mitochondria likely began as independent entities long ago, before being engulfed by host cells. They eventually gave up control and moved most of their important genes to a different organelle, the nucleus, where the rest of the cell's genetic blueprint is stored. The protein products from...
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