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J Biol Chem. 1995 Oct 20;270(42):24732-9.

Structural features of the precursor to mitochondrial aspartate aminotransferase responsible for binding to hsp70.

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  • 1Division of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, School of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Kansas City 64110-2499, USA.


The precursor (pmAspAT) and mature (mAspAT) forms of mitochondrial aspartate aminotransferase interact with hsp70 very early during translation when synthesized in either rabbit reticulocyte lysate or wheat germ extract (Lain, B., Iriarte, A., and Martinez-Carrion. (1994) J. Biol. Chem. 269, 15588-15596). The nature of the structural elements responsible for recognition and binding of this protein to hsp70 has been studied by examining the folding and potential association with the chaperone of several engineered forms of this enzyme. Whereas pmAspAT and mAspAT bind hsp70 very early during translation, the cytosolic form of this enzyme (cAspAT) does not interact with hsp70. A fusion protein consisting of the mitochondrial presequence peptide attached to the amino terminus of cAspAT associates with hsp70 only after the protein has acquired its native-like conformation, apparently through binding to the presequence exposed on the surface of the folded protein. Deletion of the amino-terminal segment of mAspAT or its replacement with the corresponding domain from the cytosolic isozyme eliminates the cotranslational binding of hsp70 to the mitochondrial protein. We conclude that both the presequence and NH2-terminal region of pmAspAT represent recognition signals for binding of hsp70 to the newly synthesized mitochondrial precursor. Results from competition studies with synthetic peptides support this conclusion. The ability of hsp70 to discriminate between these two highly homologous proteins probably involves the recognition of specific sequence elements in the NH2-terminal portion of the mitochondrial protein and may relate to their separate localization in the cell. A slower folding rate and higher affinity for cytosolic chaperones may represent evolutionary adaptations of translocated mitochondrial proteins to ensure their efficient importation into the organelle.

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