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Biochemistry. 2009 Aug 4;48(30):7140-9. doi: 10.1021/bi900725c.

Succinyl-CoA synthetase is a phosphate target for the activation of mitochondrial metabolism.

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Laboratory of Cardiac Energetics, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Maryland 20892-1061, USA.


Succinyl-CoA synthetase (SCS) is the only mitochondrial enzyme capable of ATP production via substrate level phosphorylation in the absence of oxygen, but it also plays a key role in the citric acid cycle, ketone metabolism, and heme synthesis. Inorganic phosphate (P(i)) is a signaling molecule capable of activating oxidative phosphorylation at several sites, including NADH generation and as a substrate for ATP formation. In this study, it was shown that P(i) binds the porcine heart SCS alpha-subunit (SCSalpha) in a noncovalent manner and enhances its enzymatic activity, thereby providing a new target for P(i) activation in mitochondria. Coupling 32P labeling of intact mitochondria with SDS gel electrophoresis revealed that 32P labeling of SCSalpha was enhanced in substrate-depleted mitochondria. Using mitochondrial extracts and purified bacterial SCS (BSCS), we showed that this enhanced 32P labeling resulted from a simple binding of 32P, not covalent protein phosphorylation. The ability of SCSalpha to retain its 32P throughout the SDS denaturing gel process was unique over the entire mitochondrial proteome. In vitro studies also revealed a P(i)-induced activation of SCS activity by more than 2-fold when mitochondrial extracts and purified BSCS were incubated with millimolar concentrations of P(i). Since the level of 32P binding to SCSalpha was increased in substrate-depleted mitochondria, where the matrix P(i) concentration is increased, we conclude that SCS activation by P(i) binding represents another mitochondrial target for the P(i)-induced activation of oxidative phosphorylation and anaerobic ATP production in energy-limited mitochondria.

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