N-Formylation of the Met-tRNAMet by the nuclearly encoded mitochondrial methionyl-tRNA formyltransferase (MTFMT) has been found to be a key determinant of protein synthesis initiation in mitochondria. In humans, mutations in the MTFMT gene result in Leigh syndrome, a progressive and severe neurometabolic disorder. However, the absolute requirement of formylation of Met-tRNAMet for protein synthesis in mammalian mitochondria is still debated. Here, we generated a Mtfmt-KO mouse fibroblast cell line and demonstrated that N-formylation of the first methionine via fMet-tRNAMet by MTFMT is not an absolute requirement for initiation of protein synthesis. However, it differentially affected the efficiency of synthesis of mtDNA-coded polypeptides. Lack of methionine N-formylation did not compromise the stability of these individual subunits but had a marked effect on the assembly and stability of the OXPHOS complexes I and IV and on their supercomplexes. In summary, N-formylation is not essential for mitochondrial protein synthesis but is critical for efficient synthesis of several mitochondrially encoded peptides and for OXPHOS complex stability and assembly into supercomplexes.
Keywords: N-formylation; gene knockout; methionine; mitochondria; mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA); mitochondrial disease; protein synthesis; transfer RNA (tRNA).
© 2018 Arguello et al.