Protein import motor complex reacts to mitochondrial misfolding by reducing protein import and activating mitophagy

Nat Commun. 2022 Sep 2;13(1):5164. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-32564-x.


Mitophagy is essential to maintain mitochondrial function and prevent diseases. It activates upon mitochondria depolarization, which causes PINK1 stabilization on the mitochondrial outer membrane. Strikingly, a number of conditions, including mitochondrial protein misfolding, can induce mitophagy without a loss in membrane potential. The underlying molecular details remain unclear. Here, we report that a loss of mitochondrial protein import, mediated by the pre-sequence translocase-associated motor complex PAM, is sufficient to induce mitophagy in polarized mitochondria. A genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 screen for mitophagy inducers identifies components of the PAM complex. Protein import defects are able to induce mitophagy without a need for depolarization. Upon mitochondrial protein misfolding, PAM dissociates from the import machinery resulting in decreased protein import and mitophagy induction. Our findings extend the current mitophagy model to explain mitophagy induction upon conditions that do not affect membrane polarization, such as mitochondrial protein misfolding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Mitochondrial Proteins / metabolism
  • Mitophagy*
  • Protein Kinases* / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism


  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Protein Kinases