The human genome encodes ∼20 mitochondrial proteases, yet we know little of how they sculpt the mitochondrial proteome, particularly during important mitochondrial events such as the initiation of apoptosis. To characterize global mitochondrial proteolysis we refined our technique, terminal amine isotopic labeling of substrates, for mitochondrial SILAC (MS-TAILS) to identify proteolysis across mitochondria and parent cells in parallel. Our MS-TAILS analyses identified 45% of the mitochondrial proteome and identified protein amino (N)-termini from 26% of mitochondrial proteins, the highest reported coverage of the human mitochondrial N-terminome. MS-TAILS revealed 97 previously unknown proteolytic sites. MS-TAILS also identified mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS) removal by proteolysis during protein import, confirming 101 MTS sites and identifying 135 new MTS sites, revealing a wobbly requirement for the MTS cleavage motif. To examine the relatively unknown initial cleavage events occurring before the well-studied activation of caspase-3 in intrinsic apoptosis, we quantitatively compared N-terminomes of mitochondria and their parent cells before and after initiation of apoptosis at very early time points. By identifying altered levels of >400 N-termini, MS-TAILS analyses implicated specific mitochondrial pathways including protein import, fission, and iron homeostasis in apoptosis initiation. Notably, both staurosporine and Bax activator molecule-7 triggered in common 7 mitochondrial and 85 cellular cleavage events that are potentially part of an essential core of apoptosis-initiating events. All mass spectrometry proteomics data have been deposited to the ProteomeXchange Consortium with the dataset identifier PXD009054.
Keywords: N-termini; TAILS; apoptosis; degradomics; mitochondria; mitochondrial targeting sequence; proteolysis; terminomics.