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J Mol Biol. 2005 Oct 28;353(3):517-28.

Functional and mutational characterization of human MIA40 acting during import into the mitochondrial intermembrane space.

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Institute of Diabetes Research, Academic Hospital Munich-Schwabing, Koelner Platz 1, D-80804 Munich, Germany.


A first component involved in import into the mitochondrial intermembrane space, named Mia40, has been described recently in yeast. Here, we identified the human MIA40 as a novel and ubiquitously expressed component of human mitochondria. It belongs to a novel protein family whose members share six highly conserved cysteine residues constituting a -CXC-CX9C-CX9C- motif. Human MIA40 is significantly smaller than the fungal protein and lacks the N-terminal extension including a transmembrane region and mitochondrial targeting signal. It forms soluble complexes within the intermembrane space of human mitochondria. Depletion of MIA40 in human cells by RNA interference specifically affected steady-state levels of small and cysteine-containing intermembrane space proteins like DDP1 and TIM10A, suggesting that MIA40 acts along the import pathway into the intermembrane space. Studies on the in vivo redox state of human MIA40 demonstrated that it contains intramolecular disulfide bonds. Thiol-trapping assays revealed the co-existence of different oxidation states of human MIA40 within the cell. Furthermore, we show that the twin -CX9C- motif is specifically required for import and stability of MIA40 in mitochondria. Partial mutation of this motif affects stable accumulation of MIA40 in the intermembrane space, whereas mutation of all cysteine residues in this motif inhibits import in mitochondria. Taken together, we conclude that the biogenesis and function of MIA40 in the mitochondrial intermembrane space is dependent on redox processes involving conserved cysteine residues.

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