Biogenesis of mitochondria relies on import of more than 1000 different proteins from the cytosol. Approximately 70% of these proteins follow the presequence pathway - they are synthesized with cleavable N-terminal extensions called presequences and reach the final place of their function within the organelle with the help of the TOM and TIM23 complexes in the outer and inner membranes, respectively. The translocation of proteins along the presequence pathway is powered by the import motor of the TIM23 complex. The import motor of the TIM23 complex is localized at the matrix face of the inner membrane and is likely the most complicated Hsp70-based system identified to date. How it converts the energy of ATP hydrolysis into unidirectional translocation of proteins into mitochondria remains one of the biggest mysteries of this translocation pathway. Here, the knowns and the unknowns of the mitochondrial protein import motor are discussed.
Keywords: Hsp70; J protein; chaperone; mitochondria; protein translocation.