Mammalian mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) resides in compact nucleoids, where it is replicated and transcribed into long primary transcripts processed to generate rRNAs, tRNAs, and mRNAs encoding 13 proteins. This situation differs from bacteria and eukaryotic nucleoli, which have dedicated rRNA transcription units. The assembly of rRNAs into mitoribosomes has received little study. We show that mitochondrial RNA processing enzymes involved in tRNA excision, ribonuclease P (RNase P) and ELAC2, as well as a subset of nascent mitochondrial ribosomal proteins (MRPs) associate with nucleoids to initiate RNA processing and ribosome assembly. SILAC pulse-chase labeling experiments show that nascent MRPs recruited to the nucleoid fraction were highly labeled after the pulse in a transcription-dependent manner and decreased in labeling intensity during the chase. These results provide insight into the landscape of binding events required for mitochondrial ribosome assembly and firmly establish the mtDNA nucleoid as a control center for mitochondrial biogenesis.
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