In order to combat molecular damage, most cellular proteins undergo rapid turnover. We have previously identified large nuclear protein assemblies that can persist for years in post-mitotic tissues and are subject to age-related decline. Here, we report that mitochondria can be long lived in the mouse brain and reveal that specific mitochondrial proteins have half-lives longer than the average proteome. These mitochondrial long-lived proteins (mitoLLPs) are core components of the electron transport chain (ETC) and display increased longevity in respiratory supercomplexes. We find that COX7C, a mitoLLP that forms a stable contact site between complexes I and IV, is required for complex IV and supercomplex assembly. Remarkably, even upon depletion of COX7C transcripts, ETC function is maintained for days, effectively uncoupling mitochondrial function from ongoing transcription of its mitoLLPs. Our results suggest that modulating protein longevity within the ETC is critical for mitochondrial proteome maintenance and the robustness of mitochondrial function.
Keywords: age mosaicism; aging; electron transport chain; heterogeneity; long-lived proteins; mitochondria; muscle; neurons; protein homeostasis; supercomplexes.
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