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Structural organization and transcription regulation of nuclear genes encoding the mammalian cytochrome c oxidase complex.

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  • 1Department of Animal Biology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Cytochrome c Oxidase (COX) is the terminal component of the bacterial as well as the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex that catalyzes the conversion of redox energy to ATP. In eukaryotes, the oligomeric enzyme is bound to mitochondrial innermembrane with subunits ranging from 7 to 13. Thus, its biosynthesis involves a coordinate interplay between nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. The largest subunits, I, II, and III, which represent the catalytic core of the enzyme, are encoded by the mitochondrial DNA and are synthesized within the mitochondria. The rest of the smaller subunits implicated in the regulatory function are encoded on the nuclear DNA and imported into mitochondria following their synthesis in the cytosol. Some of the nuclear coded subunits are expressed in tissue and developmental specific isologs. The ubiquitous subunits IV, Va, Vb, VIb, VIc, VIIb, VIIc, and VIII (L) are detected in all the tissues, although the mRNA levels for the individual subunits vary in different tissues. The tissue specific isologs VIa (H), VIIa (H), and VIII (H) are exclusive to heart and skeletal muscle. cDNA sequence analysis of nuclear coded subunits reveals 60 to 90% conservation among species both at the amino acid and nucleotide level, with the exception of subunit VIII, which exhibits 40 to 80% interspecies homology. Functional genes for COX subunits IV, Vb, VIa 'L' & 'H', VIIa 'L' & 'H', VIIc and VIII (H) from different mammalian species and their 5' flanking putative promoter regions have been sequenced and extensively characterized. The size of the genes range from 2 to 10 kb in length. Although the number of introns and exons are identical between different species for a given gene, the size varies across the species. A majority of COX genes investigated, with the exception of muscle-specific COXVIII(H) gene, lack the canonical 'TATAA' sequence and contain GC-rich sequences at the immediate upstream region of transcription start site(s). In this respect, the promoter structure of COX genes resemble those of many house-keeping genes. The ubiquitous COX genes show extensive 5' heterogeneity with multiple transcription initiation sites that bind to both general as well as specialized transcription factors such as YY1 and GABP (NRF2/ets). The transcription activity of the promoter in most of the ubiquitous genes is regulated by factors binding to the 5' upstream Sp1, NRF1, GABP (NRF2), and YY1 sites. Additionally, the murine COXVb promoter contains a negative regulatory region that encompasses the binding motifs with partial or full consensus to YY1, GTG, CArG, and ets. Interestingly, the muscle-specific COX genes contain a number of striated muscle-specific regulatory motifs such as E box, CArG, and MEF2 at the proximal promoter regions. While the regulation of COXVIa (H) gene involves factors binding to both MEF2 and E box in a skeletal muscle-specific fashion, the COXVIII (H) gene is regulated by factors binding to two tandomly duplicated E boxes in both skeletal and cardiac myocytes. The cardiac-specific factor has been suggested to be a novel bHLH protein. Mammalian COX genes provide a valuable system to study mechanisms of coordinated regulation of nuclear and mitochondrial genes. The presence of conserved sequence motifs common to several of the nuclear genes, which encode mitochondrial proteins, suggest a possible regulatory function by common physiological factors like heme/O2/carbon source. Thus, a well-orchestrated regulatory control and cross talks between the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes in response to changes in the mitochondrial metabolic conditions are key factors in the overall regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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