The MTERF family proteins: mitochondrial transcription regulators and beyond

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2009 May;1787(5):303-11. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2009.01.013. Epub 2009 Jan 30.


The MTERF family is a wide protein family, identified in Metazoa and plants, which consists of 4 subfamilies named MTERF1-4. Proteins belonging to this family are localized in mitochondria and show a modular architecture based on repetitions of a 30 amino acid module, the mTERF motif, containing leucine zipper-like heptads. The MTERF family includes the characterized transcription termination factors human mTERF, sea urchin mtDBP and Drosophila DmTTF. In vitro and in vivo studies show that these factors play different roles which are not restricted to transcription termination, but concern also transcription initiation and the control of mtDNA replication. The multiplicity of functions could be related to the differences in the gene organization of the mitochondrial genomes. Studies on the function of human and Drosophila MTERF3 factor showed that the protein acts as negative regulator of mitochondrial transcription, possibly in cooperation with other still unknown factors. The complete elucidation of the role of the MTERF family members will contribute to the unraveling of the molecular mechanisms of mtDNA transcription and replication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / metabolism
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Insecta / genetics
  • Mitochondria / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Peptide Termination Factors / genetics
  • Sea Urchins / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Vertebrates / genetics


  • Basic-Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • MTERF1 protein, human
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Peptide Termination Factors