Mitochondrial protein import in plants. Signals, sorting, targeting, processing and regulation

Plant Mol Biol. 1998 Sep;38(1-2):311-38. doi: 10.1023/a:1006020208140.


Mitochondrial biogenesis requires a coordinated expression of both the nuclear and the organellar genomes and specific intracellular protein trafficking, processing and assembly machinery. Most mitochondrial proteins are synthesised as precursor proteins containing an N-terminal extension which functions as a targeting signal, which is proteolytically cleaved off after import into mitochondria. We review our present knowledge on components and mechanisms involved in the mitochondrial protein import process in plants. This encompasses properties of targeting peptides, sorting of precursor proteins between mitochondria and chloroplasts, signal recognition, mechanism of translocation across the mitochondrial membranes and the role of cytosolic and organellar molecular chaperones in this process. The mitochondrial protein processing in plants is catalysed by the mitochondrial processing peptidase (MPP), which in contrast to other sources, is integrated into the bc1 complex of the respiratory chain. This is the most studied component of the plant import machinery characterised to date. What are the biochemical consequences of the integration of the MPP into an oligomeric protein complex and how are several hundred presequences of precursor proteins with no sequence similarities and no consensus for cleavage, specifically cleaved off by MPP? Finally we will address the emerging area of the control of protein import into mitochondria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Mitochondria / enzymology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mitochondria / physiology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plant Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Plant Proteins