Phosphorylation of rat mitochondrial transcription termination factor (mTERF) is required for transcription termination but not for binding to DNA

Nucleic Acids Res. 2004 Apr 15;32(7):2059-68. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkh528. Print 2004.


Despite the crucial importance of mitochondrial transcription, knowledge of its regulation is poor. Therefore, characterization of mammalian mitochondrial transcription termination factor (mTERF) functionality and regulation is of fundamental biological interest in order to understand the regulation of mitochondrial transcription. Here we report that mTERF is the first protein having a role in mammalian mitochondrial gene expression that appears to be controlled by phosphorylation. Recombinant mature rat mTERF protein has specific DNA-binding capacity for the sequence required for transcription termination. Furthermore, unlike recombinant human mTERF, the rat protein bound to its mitochondrial DNA binding site promotes the termination of transcription initiated with heterologous RNA polymerase. Interestingly, mTERF is a phosphoprotein with four phosphate groups, and while the DNA-binding activity of mTERF is unaffected by the phosphorylation/dephosphorylation state, only the phosphorylated form of the protein is active for termination activity. Moreover, natural human mTERF is also a phosphoprotein and its termination activity is inhibited by dephosphorylation. These data suggest that mTERF functioning in vivo is regulated by phosphorylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • Binding Sites
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA, Complementary / chemistry
  • DNA, Complementary / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria, Liver / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Binding
  • Rats
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic / genetics*


  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • DNA, Complementary
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • MTERF1 protein, human
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AJ292524