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Physiol Genomics. 2012 Dec 1;44(23):1133-40. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00079.2012. Epub 2012 Oct 16.

Functional prediction and physiological characterization of a novel short trans-membrane protein 1 as a subunit of mitochondrial respiratory complexes.

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  • 1Centre for Advanced Research in Environmental Genomics, Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


Mitochondrial respiration is mediated by a set of multisubunit assemblies of proteins that are embedded in the mitochondrial inner membranes. Respiratory complexes do not only contain central catalytic subunits essential for the bioenergetic transformation, but also many short trans-membrane subunits (sTMs) that are implicated in the proper assembly of complexes. Defects in sTMs have been discovered in some human neurodegenerative diseases. Here we identify a new subunit that we named Stmp1 and have characterized its function using both computational and experimental approaches. Stmp1 is a short trans-membrane protein, and sequence/structure analysis revealed that it shares common features like the small size, presence of a single or two TM region, and a COOH-terminal charged region, as many typical sTMs of respiratory complexes. In situ hybridization and RT-PCR assays showed that the Stmp1 expression is ubiquitous throughout zebrafish embryogenesis. In adults, Stmp1 expression was highest in the brain compared with muscle and liver. In zebrafish larvae (3-5 days postfertilization), antisense morpholino oligonucleotide-mediated knockdown of the Stmp1 gene (Stmp1-MO) resulted in a series of mild morphological defects, including abnormal shape of head and jaw and cardiac edema. Larvae injected with the Stmp1-MO had negligible responses to touch stimuli. By ventilation frequency analysis we found that Stmp1-MO-injected zebrafish displayed a severe dysfunction of ventilatory activities when exposed to hypoxic conditions, suggesting a defective mitochondrial activity induced by the loss of Stmp1. Phylogenetic profiling of known respiratory sTMs compared with Stmp1 revealed that all defined sTMs from four respiratory complexes have restricted or variable phyletic distribution, indicating that they are products of evolutionary innovations to fulfill lineage-related functional requirements for respiratory complexes. Thus, being present in animals, filasterea, choanoflagellida, amoebozoa, and plants, Stmp1 may have evolved to confer a new or complementary regulation of respiratory activities.

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