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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Aug 30;102(35):12419-24. Epub 2005 Aug 16.

Role of Pam16's degenerate J domain in protein import across the mitochondrial inner membrane.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Translocation of proteins across the mitochondrial inner membrane is an essential process requiring an import motor having mitochondrial Hsp70 (mtHsp70) at its core. The J protein partner of mtHsp70, Pam18, is an integral part of this motor, serving to stimulate the ATPase activity of mtHsp70. Pam16, an essential protein having an inactive J domain that is unable to stimulate mtHsp70's ATPase activity, forms a heterodimer with Pam18, but its function is unknown. We set out to test the importance of three properties of Pam16: (i) a stable interaction between Pam16 and Pam18, (ii) the inability of Pam16's degenerate J domain to stimulate Ssc1's ATPase domain, and (iii) the innately lower stimulatory activity of the Pam16:Pam18 heterodimer, compared to Pam18 alone. Neither substantial reduction in the ability of Pam18 to stimulate Ssc1's ATPase activity, nor the presence of an active J domain in Pam16, had deleterious effects on cell growth, indicating the lack of importance of two of these biochemical properties. However, a stable interaction between Pam16's degenerate J domain and Pam18's J domain was found to be critical for function. Alterations that destabilized the Pam16:Pam18 heterodimer had deleterious effects on cell growth and mitochondrial protein import; intragenic suppressors that restored robust growth also restored heterodimer stability. Our results support the idea that Pam16's J-like domain strongly interacts with Pam18's J domain, leading to a productive interaction of Pam18 with mtHsp70 at the import channel.

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