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Genetics. 2012 Feb;190(2):559-67. doi: 10.1534/genetics.111.135665. Epub 2011 Nov 17.

Multiple roles of the Cox20 chaperone in assembly of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cytochrome c oxidase.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853-2703, USA.


The Cox2 subunit of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cytochrome c oxidase is synthesized in the mitochondrial matrix as a precursor whose leader peptide is rapidly processed by the inner membrane protease following translocation to the intermembrane space. Processing is chaperoned by Cox20, an integral inner membrane protein whose hydrophilic domains are located in the intermembrane space, and Cox20 remains associated with mature, unassembled Cox2. The Cox2 C-tail domain is exported post-translationally by the highly conserved translocase Cox18 and associated proteins. We have found that Cox20 is required for efficient export of the Cox2 C-tail. Furthermore, Cox20 interacts by co-immune precipitation with Cox18, and this interaction requires the presence of Cox2. We therefore propose that Cox20 binding to Cox2 on the trans side of the inner membrane accelerates dissociation of newly exported Cox2 from the Cox18 translocase, promoting efficient cycling of the translocase. The requirement for Cox20 in cytochrome c oxidase assembly and respiratory growth is partially bypassed by yme1, mgr1 or mgr3 mutations, each of which reduce i-AAA protease activity in the intermembrane space. Thus, Cox20 also appears to stabilize unassembled Cox2 against degradation by the i-AAA protease. Pre-Cox2 leader peptide processing by Imp1 occurs in the absence of Cox20 and i-AAA protease activity, but is greatly reduced in efficiency. Under these conditions some mature Cox2 is assembled into cytochrome c oxidase allowing weak respiratory growth. Thus, the Cox20 chaperone has important roles in leader peptide processing, C-tail export, and stabilization of Cox2.

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