The organization of individual respiratory Complexes I, III, and IV (mammalian cells) or III and IV (yeast) of the mitochondria into higher order supercomplexes (SCs) is generally accepted. However, the factors that regulate SC formation and the functional significance of SCs are not well understood. The mitochondrial signature phospholipid cardiolipin (CL) plays a central role in formation and stability of respiratory SCs from yeast to man. Studies in yeast mutants in which the CL level can be regulated displayed a direct correlation between CL levels and SC formation. Disease states in which CL levels are reduced also show defects in SC formation. Three-dimensional density maps of yeast and bovine SCs by electron cryo-microscopy show gaps between the transmembrane-localized interfaces of individual complexes consistent with the large excess of CL in SCs over that integrated into the structure of individual respiratory complexes. Finally, the yeast SC composed of Complex III and two Complexes IV was reconstituted in liposomes from purified individual complexes containing integrated CLs. Reconstitution was wholly dependent on inclusion of additional CL in the liposomes. Therefore, non-integral CL molecules play an important role in SC formation and may be involved in regulation of SC stability under metabolic conditions where CL levels fluctuate.
Keywords: Cardiolipin; In vitro reconstitution; Mitochondria; Respiratory supercomplex; Structural analysis.
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