Mitochondrial AAA+ quality-control proteases regulate diverse aspects of mitochondrial biology through specialized protein degradation, but the underlying mechanisms of these enzymes remain poorly defined. The mitochondrial AAA+ protease AFG3L2 is of particular interest, as genetic mutations localized throughout AFG3L2 are linked to diverse neurodegenerative disorders. However, a lack of structural data has limited our understanding of how mutations impact enzymatic function. Here, we used cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) to determine a substrate-bound structure of the catalytic core of human AFG3L2. This structure identifies multiple specialized structural features that integrate with conserved motifs required for ATP-dependent translocation to unfold and degrade targeted proteins. Many disease-relevant mutations localize to these unique structural features of AFG3L2 and distinctly influence its activity and stability. Our results provide a molecular basis for neurological phenotypes associated with different AFG3L2 mutations and establish a structural framework to understand how different members of the AAA+ superfamily achieve specialized biological functions.
Keywords: AAA+ protease; mitochondrial quality control; neurodegenerative disease; spinocerebellar ataxia type 28.
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