Most mitochondrial membrane proteins are synthesized in the cytosol and must be delivered to the organelle in an unfolded, import competent form. In mammalian cells, the cytosolic chaperones Hsp90 and Hsp70 are part of a large cytosolic complex that deliver the membrane protein to the mitochondrion by docking with the import receptor Tom70. These two abundant chaperones have other functions in the cell suggesting that the specificity for the targeting of mitochondrial proteins requires the addition of specific factors within the targeting complex. We identify Tom34 as a cochaperone of Hsp70/Hsp90 in mitochondrial protein import. We show that Tom34 is an integral component with Hsp70 and Hsp90 in the large complex. We also demonstrate the role of Tom34 in the mitochondrial import process, as the addition of an excess of Tom34 prevents efficient mitochondrial translocation of precursor proteins that have requirements for Hsp70/Hsp90. Tom34 exhibits an affinity for mitochondrial preproteins of the Tom70 translocation pathway as demonstrated by binding assays using in vitro translated proteins as baits. In addition, we examined the specificity and the size of different complex cytosolic machines. Separation of different radiolabeled cell-free translated proteins on Native-PAGE showed the presence of a high molecular weight complex which binds hydrophobic proteins. Importantly we show that the formation of the chaperone cytosolic complex that mediates the targeting of proteins to the mitochondria contains Tom34 and assembles in the presence of a fully translated substrate protein.
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