Mitochondrial RNA import: from diversity of natural mechanisms to potential applications

Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2011;287:145-90. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-386043-9.00004-9.


Mitochondria, owing to their bacterial origin, still contain their own DNA. However, the majority of bacterial genes were lost or transferred to the nuclear genome and the biogenesis of the "present-day" mitochondria mainly depends on the expression of the nuclear genome. Thus, most mitochondrial proteins and a small number of mitochondrial RNAs (mostly tRNAs) expressed from nuclear genes need to be imported into the organelle. During evolution, macromolecule import systems were universally established. The processes of protein mitochondrial import are very well described in the literature. By contrast, deciphering the mitochondrial RNA import phenomenon is still a real challenge. The purpose of this review is to present a general survey of our present knowledge in this field in different model organisms, protozoa, plants, yeast, and mammals. Questions still under debate and major challenges are discussed. Mitochondria are involved in numerous human diseases. The targeting of macromolecule to mitochondria represents a promising way to fight mitochondrial disorders and recent developments in this area of research are presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • DNA / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / genetics
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA, Fungal / genetics
  • RNA, Fungal / metabolism*
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Plant / genetics
  • RNA, Plant / metabolism*
  • RNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • RNA, Protozoan / metabolism*
  • RNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • RNA, Ribosomal / metabolism
  • RNA, Transfer / chemistry
  • RNA, Transfer / genetics
  • RNA, Transfer / metabolism*
  • Ribonuclease P / genetics
  • Ribonuclease P / metabolism


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • RNA, Fungal
  • RNA, Mitochondrial
  • RNA, Plant
  • RNA, Protozoan
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • RNA, Transfer
  • Ribonuclease P