The signal distinguishing between targeting of outer membrane β-barrel protein to plastids and mitochondria in plants

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Res. 2019 Apr;1866(4):663-672. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2019.01.004. Epub 2019 Jan 8.


The proteome of the outer membrane of mitochondria and chloroplasts consists of membrane proteins anchored by α-helical or β-sheet elements. While proteins with α-helical transmembrane domains are present in all cellular membranes, proteins with β-barrel structure are specific for these two membranes. The organellar β-barrel proteins are encoded in the nuclear genome and thus, have to be targeted to the outer organellar membrane where they are recognized by surface exposed translocation complexes. In the last years, the signals that ensure proper targeting of these proteins have been investigated as essential base for an understanding of the regulation of cellular protein distribution. However, the organellar β-barrel proteins are unique as most of them do not contain a typical targeting information in form of an N-terminal cleavable targeting signal. Recently, it was discovered that targeting and surface recognition of mitochondrial β-barrel proteins in yeast, humans and plants depends on the hydrophobicity of the last β-hairpin of the β-barrel. However, we demonstrate that the hydrophobicity is not sufficient for the discrimination of targeting to chloroplasts or mitochondria. By domain swapping between mitochondrial and chloroplast targeted β-barrel proteins atVDAC1 and psOEP24 we demonstrate that the presence of a hydrophilic amino acid at the C-terminus of the penultimate β-strand is required for mitochondrial targeting. A mutation of the chloroplast β-barrel protein psOEP24 which mimics such profile is efficiently targeted to mitochondria. Thus, we present the properties of the signal for mitochondrial targeting of β-barrel proteins in plants.

Keywords: Intracellular protein sorting; Membrane proteins; Protein targeting; targeting signal; β-Barrel proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chloroplast Proteins / chemistry
  • Chloroplast Proteins / metabolism*
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / chemistry
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plant Proteins / chemistry
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channels / metabolism


  • Chloroplast Proteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Plant Proteins
  • Protein Sorting Signals
  • Voltage-Dependent Anion Channels