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Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Feb 1;41(4):2479-88. doi: 10.1093/nar/gks1447. Epub 2013 Jan 8.

Transcription-independent role for human mitochondrial RNA polymerase in mitochondrial ribosome biogenesis.

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Department of Pathology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.


Human mitochondrial RNA polymerase, POLRMT, is required for mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) transcription and forms initiation complexes with human mitochondrial transcription factor B2 (h-mtTFB2). However, POLRMT also interacts with the paralogue of h-mtTFB2, h-mtTFB1, which is a 12S ribosomal RNA methyltransferase required for small (28S) mitochondrial ribosome subunit assembly. Herein, we show that POLRMT associates with h-mtTFB1 in 28S mitochondrial ribosome complexes that are stable in the absence of mitochondrial transcription and distinct from transcription complexes containing POLRMT and h-mtTFB2. Overexpression of POLRMT in HeLa cells increases 12S rRNA methylation by h-mtTFB1 and reduces the steady-state levels of mtDNA-encoded proteins and respiration, apparently because of a decrease in fully assembled 55S mitochondrial ribosomes. We propose that POLRMT interacts directly with h-mtTFB1 in 28S mitochondrial ribosomes to augment its 12S rRNA methyltransferase activity, and that together they provide a checkpoint for proper 28S and 55S mitochondrial ribosome assembly. Thus, POLRMT is multi-functional, forming distinct protein complexes that regulate different steps in mitochondrial gene expression, at least one of which does not involve transcription per se. The significance of these results is discussed with regard to the mechanism and regulation of human mitochondrial gene expression and the potential multi-functionality of RNA polymerases in general.

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