Mitochondria are essential organelles with numerous functions in cellular metabolism and homeostasis. Most of the >1,000 different mitochondrial proteins are synthesized as precursors in the cytosol and are imported into mitochondria by five transport pathways. The protein import machineries of the mitochondrial membranes and aqueous compartments reveal a remarkable variability of mechanisms for protein recognition, translocation, and sorting. The protein translocases do not operate as separate entities but are connected to each other and to machineries with functions in energetics, membrane organization, and quality control. Here, we discuss the versatility and dynamic organization of the mitochondrial protein import machineries. Elucidating the molecular mechanisms of mitochondrial protein translocation is crucial for understanding the integration of protein translocases into a large network that controls organelle biogenesis, function, and dynamics.
Keywords: inner membrane; mitochondrial architecture; outer membrane; preprotein; protein sorting; translocase.