Metabolic signalling-dependent molecular coupling of the main mitochondrial protein translocase

Since 06/2020: Prof Dr. Nikolaus Pfanner (CIBSS-PI), Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Faculty of Medicine), University of Freiburg

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(former project leader: PD Dr. Thomas Becker)


Mitochondria play a central role for cellular metabolism. As powerhouse of the cell they produce the majority of cellular energy. Mitochondrial functions depend on a massive transport of proteins and metabolites across the two surrounding membranes. About one thousand proteins are produced on cytosolic ribosomes and are transported to the mitochondrial surface. The translocase of the outer mitochondrial membrane (TOM complex) imports almost all precursor proteins into the target organelle. How transport is fine-tuned in response to metabolite signalling is poorly understood. We found that the voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) associates with the TOM complex. The VDAC channel allows passage of small molecules like metabolites and ion across the outer membrane. The link between VDAC and the TOM complex represents the first connection between protein transport and metabolite flux. The goal of this project is to understand the role of this interaction in the control of mitochondrial protein import in response to metabolite signalling.