Bimodal targeting of cytochrome P450s to endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria: the concept of chimeric signals

FEBS J. 2011 Nov;278(22):4218-29. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2011.08356.x. Epub 2011 Oct 24.


Targeting signals are critical for proteins to find their specific cellular destination. Signals for protein targeting to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), mitochondria, peroxisome and nucleus are distinct and the mechanisms of protein translocation across these membrane compartments also vary markedly. Recently, however, a number of proteins have been shown to be present in multiple cellular sites such as mitochondria and ER, cytosol and mitochondria, plasma membrane and mitochondria, and peroxisome and mitochondria suggesting the occurrence of multimodal targeting signals in some cases. Cytochrome P450 monooxygenases (CYPs), which play crucial roles in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs and toxins, are the prototype of bimodally targeted proteins. Several members of family 1, 2 and 3 CYPs have now been reported to be associated with mitochondria and plasma membrane in addition to the ER. This review highlights the mechanisms of bimodal targeting of CYP1A1, 2B1, 2E1 and 2D6 to mitochondria and ER. The bimodal targeting of these proteins is driven by their N-terminal signals which carry essential elements of both ER targeting and mitochondria targeting signals. These multimodal signals have been termed chimeric signals appropriately to describe their dual targeting property. The cryptic mitochondrial targeting signals of CYP2B1, 2D6, 2E1 require activation by protein kinase A or protein kinase C mediated phosphorylation at sites immediately flanking the targeting signal and/or membrane anchoring regions. The cryptic mitochondria targeting signal of CYP1A1 requires activation by endoproteolytic cleavage by a cytosolic endoprotease, which exposes the mitochondrial signal. This review discusses both mechanisms of bimodal targeting and toxicological consequences of mitochondria targeted CYP proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System / metabolism*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Transport
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme System