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Hum Mol Genet. 2014 Oct 1;23(19):5159-70. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddu239. Epub 2014 May 16.

The arginine methyltransferase NDUFAF7 is essential for complex I assembly and early vertebrate embryogenesis.

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Montreal Neurological Institute and Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 2B4.
Montreal Neurological Institute and Department of Human Genetics, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 2B4


Complex I of the mitochondrial respiratory chain is a large multisubunit enzyme that assembles from nuclear and mtDNA-encoded components. Several complex I assembly factors have been identified, but their precise functions are not well understood. Here, we have investigated the function of one of these, NDUFAF7, a soluble matrix protein comprised of a DUF185 domain that harbors a methyltransferase motif. Knockdown of NDUFAF7 by siRNA in human fibroblasts produced a specific complex I assembly defect, as did morpholino-mediated knockdown of the zebrafish ortholog. Germline disruption of the murine ortholog was an early embryonic lethal. The complex I assembly defect was characterized by rapid, AFG3L2-dependent, turnover of newly synthesized ND1, the subunit that seeds the assembly pathway, and by decreased steady-state levels of several other structural subunits including NDUFS2, NDUFS1 and NDUFA9. Expression of an NDUFAF7 mutant (G124V), predicted to disrupt methyltransferase activity, impaired complex I assembly, suggesting an assembly factor or structural subunit as a substrate for methylation. To identify the NDUFAF7 substrate, we used an anti-ND1 antibody to immunoprecipitate complex I and its associated assembly factors, followed by mass spectrometry to detect posttranslational protein modifications. Analysis of an NDUFAF7 methyltransferase mutant showed a 10-fold reduction in an NDUFS2 peptide containing dimethylated Arg85, but a 5-fold reduction in three other NDUFS2 peptides. These results show that NDUFAF7 functions to methylate NDUFS2 after it assembles into a complex I, stabilizing an early intermediate in the assembly pathway, and that this function is essential for normal vertebrate development.

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