The mitochondrial carriers (MC) constitute a large family (MCF) of inner membrane transporters displaying different substrate specificities, patterns of gene expression and even non-mitochondrial organelle localization. In Arabidopsis thaliana 58 genes encode these six trans-membrane domain proteins. The number in other sequenced plant genomes varies from 37 to 125, thus being larger than that of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and comparable with that of Homo sapiens. In addition to displaying highly similar secondary structures, the proteins of the MCF can be subdivided into subfamilies on the basis of substrate specificity and the presence of specific symmetry-related amino acid triplets. We assessed the predictive power of these triplets by comparing predictions with experimentally determined data for Arabidopsis MCs, and applied these predictions to the not yet functionally characterized mitochondrial carriers of the grass, Brachypodium distachyon, and the alga, Ostreococcus lucimarinus. We additionally studied evolutionary aspects of the plant MCF by comparing sequence data of the Arabidopsis MCF with those of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Homo sapiens, then with those of Brachypodium distachyon and Ostreococcus lucimarinus, employing intra- and inter-genome comparisons. Finally, we discussed the importance of the approaches of global gene expression analysis and in vivo characterizations in order to address the relevance of these vital carrier proteins.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.