The mitochondrial adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthase is located in the inner membrane and consists of at least 16 subunit types in animals, one of which is subunit e, the function of which is not clearly defined. A highly homologous protein is located in the nucleus and named progesterone receptor binding protein (RBF), to designate its role in this organelle. In addition, the expression level of subunit e in mammalian cells fluctuates greatly and is induced by certain carcinogens and elevated in liver cancers. Because these previous observations suggested to us that subunit e may play multifunctional regulatory roles, we employed a bioinformatic approach to test this view. First, from sequence alignment studies, secondary structure analyses, and basic local alignment search tool (BLAST) searches, we concluded that mitochondrial subunit e and the homologous nuclear protein RBF are most likely the same protein. Second, we examined the known sequence and structure of one of the most common multifunctional cell regulatory proteins, the 14-3-3 protein, involved in phosphopeptide binding, and deduced that it has an apparent binding motif (-KX(6)R---RY-). Third, from careful examination of the conserved residues within all subunit e sequences in the database, we discovered that this protein has a comparable binding motif (-RY---KX(6)R-). Finally, in a BLAST search for additional homologs of subunit e, we found a human brain protein, KIAA1578, the C-terminal 30 amino acids of which are identical to those of human subunit e. This protein also contains a potential phosphopeptide binding motif. In summary, these studies provide support for the view that subunit e is a multifunctional cell regulator involved in cell signaling, and implicate the involvement of the KIAA1578 protein in cell signaling as well. These studies suggest also that, while functioning as a subunit of mitochondrial ATP synthases, subunit e may help regulate these complexes by binding to phosphopeptides within one or more of the other subunit types.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.