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Annu Rev Biochem. 2011;80:1033-53. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biochem-060109-092838.

Mitochondrial tRNA import and its consequences for mitochondrial translation.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Bern, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland.


The mitochondrial genomes of most eukaryotes lack a variable number of tRNA genes. This lack is compensated for by import of a small fraction of the corresponding cytosolic tRNAs. There are two broad mechanisms for the import of tRNAs into mitochondria. In the first one, the tRNA is coimported together with a mitochondrial precursor protein along the protein import pathway. It applies to the yeast tRNA(Lys) and has been elucidated in great detail. In the second more vaguely defined mechanism, which is mainly found in plants and protozoa, tRNAs are directly imported independent of cytosolic factors. However, results in plants indicate that direct import of tRNAs may nevertheless require some components of the protein import machinery. All imported tRNAs in all systems are of the eukaryotic type but need to be functionally integrated into the mitochondrial translation system of bacterial descent. For some tRNAs, this is not trivial and requires unique evolutionary adaptations.

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