Mitochondrial carriers facilitate the transfer of small molecules across the inner mitochondrial membrane (IMM) to support mitochondrial function and core cellular processes. In addition to the classical SLC25 (solute carrier family 25) mitochondrial carriers, the past decade has led to the discovery of additional protein families with numerous members that exhibit IMM localization and transporter-like properties. These include mitochondrial pyruvate carriers, sideroflexins, and mitochondrial cation/H+ exchangers. These transport proteins were linked to vital physiological functions and disease. Their structures and transport mechanisms are, however, still largely unknown and understudied. Protein sequence analysis per se can often pinpoint hotspots that are of functional or structural importance. In this review, we summarize current knowledge about the sequence features of mitochondrial transporters with a special focus on the newly included SLC54, SLC55 and SLC56 families of the SLC solute carrier superfamily. Taking a step further, we combine sequence conservation analysis with transmembrane segment and secondary structure prediction methods to extract residue positions and sequence motifs that likely play a role in substrate binding, binding site gating or structural stability. We hope that our review will help guide future experimental efforts by the scientific community to unravel the transport mechanisms and structures of these novel mitochondrial carriers.
Keywords: ABC transporter; LETM; MCF; MPC; SLC transporters; SLC25; SLC54; SLC55; SLC56; mitochondrial carriers; protein targeting; sequence analysis; sideroflexin.