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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Mar;1808(3):947-54. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2010.07.019. Epub 2010 Jul 24.

Minor modifications and major adaptations: the evolution of molecular machines driving mitochondrial protein import.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Monash University, Clayton Campus, Melbourne 3800, Australia.


Bacterial endosymbionts gave rise to mitochondria in a process that depended on the acquisition of protein import pathways. Modification and in some cases major re-tooling of the endosymbiont's cellular machinery produced these pathways, establishing mitochondria as organelles common to all eukaryotic cells. The legacy of this evolutionary tinkering can be seen in the homologies and structural similarities between mitochondrial protein import machinery and modern day bacterial proteins. Comparative analysis of these systems is revealing both possible routes for the evolution of the mitochondrial membrane translocases and a greater understanding of the mechanisms behind mitochondrial protein import. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled Protein translocation across or insertion into membranes.

Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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