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Curr Genet. 2009 Feb;55(1):1-18. doi: 10.1007/s00294-008-0223-9. Epub 2008 Dec 16.

Import of tRNAs and aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases into mitochondria.

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  • 1Institut de Biologie Moléculaire des Plantes, Unité Propre de Recherche du CNRS, Associated with Louis Pasteur University, 12 rue du Général Zimmer, 67084, Strasbourg Cedex, France.


During evolution, most of the bacterial genes from the ancestral endosymbiotic alpha-proteobacteria at the origin of mitochondria have been either lost or transferred to the nuclear genome. A crucial evolutionary step was the establishment of macromolecule import systems to allow the come back of proteins and RNAs into the organelle. Paradoxically, the few mitochondria-encoded protein genes remain essential and must be translated by a mitochondrial translation machinery mainly constituted by nucleus-encoded components. Two crucial partners of the mitochondrial translation machinery are the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and the tRNAs. All mitochondrial aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases and many tRNAs are imported from the cytosol into the mitochondria in eukaryotic cells. During the last few years, their origin and their import into the organelle have been studied in evolutionary distinct organisms and we review here what is known in this field.

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