The mitochondrial uniporter is a highly selective calcium channel in the organelles inner membrane. Its molecular components include the EF-hand-containing calcium-binding proteins mitochondrial calcium uptake 1 (MICU1) and MICU2 and the pore-forming subunit mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU). We sought to achieve a full molecular characterization of the uniporter holocomplex (uniplex). Quantitative mass spectrometry of affinity-purified uniplex recovered MICU1 and MICU2, MCU and its paralog MCUb, and essential MCU regulator (EMRE), a previously uncharacterized protein. EMRE is a 10-kilodalton, metazoan-specific protein with a single transmembrane domain. In its absence, uniporter channel activity was lost despite intact MCU expression and oligomerization. EMRE was required for the interaction of MCU with MICU1 and MICU2. Hence, EMRE is essential for in vivo uniporter current and additionally bridges the calcium-sensing role of MICU1 and MICU2 with the calcium-conducting role of MCU.
Mitochondria from diverse organisms are capable of transporting large amounts of Ca(2+) via a ruthenium-red-sensitive, membrane-potential-dependent mechanism called the uniporter. Although the uniporters biophysical properties have been studied extensively, its molecular composition remains elusive. We recently used comparative proteomics to identify MICU1 (also known as CBARA1), an EF-hand-containing protein that serves as a putative regulator of the uniporter. Here, we use whole-genome phylogenetic profiling, genome-wide RNA co-expression analysis and organelle-wide protein coexpression analysis to predict proteins functionally related to MICU1. All three methods converge on a novel predicted transmembrane protein, CCDC109A, that we now call mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU). MCU forms oligomers in the mitochondrial inner membrane, physically interacts with MICU1, and resides within a large molecular weight complex. Silencing MCU in cultured cells or in vivo in mouse liver severely abrogates mitochondrial Ca(2+) uptake, whereas mitochondrial respiration and membrane potential remain fully intact. MCU has two predicted transmembrane helices, which are separated by a highly conserved linker facing the intermembrane space. Acidic residues in this linker are required for its full activity. However, an S259A point mutation retains function but confers resistance to Ru360, the most potent inhibitor of the uniporter. Our genomic, physiological, biochemical and pharmacological data firmly establish MCU as an essential component of the mitochondrial Ca(2+) uniporter.
The metazoan mitochondrial translation machinery is unusual in having a single tRNA(Met) that fulfills the dual role of the initiator and elongator tRNA(Met). A portion of the Met-tRNA(Met) pool is formylated by mitochondrial methionyl-tRNA formyltransferase (MTFMT) to generate N-formylmethionine-tRNA(Met) (fMet-tRNA(met)), which is used for translation initiation; however, the requirement of formylation for initiation in human mitochondria is still under debate. Using targeted sequencing of the mtDNA and nuclear exons encoding the mitochondrial proteome (MitoExome), we identified compound heterozygous mutations in MTFMT in two unrelated children presenting with Leigh syndrome and combined OXPHOS deficiency. Patient fibroblasts exhibit severe defects in mitochondrial translation that can be rescued by exogenous expression of MTFMT. Furthermore, patient fibroblasts have dramatically reduced fMet-tRNA(Met) levels and an abnormal formylation profile of mitochondrially translated COX1. Our findings demonstrate that MTFMT is critical for efficient human mitochondrial translation and reveal a human disorder of Met-tRNA(Met) formylation.
Discovering the molecular basis of mitochondrial respiratory chain disease is challenging given the large number of both mitochondrial and nuclear genes that are involved. We report a strategy of focused candidate gene prediction, high-throughput sequencing and experimental validation to uncover the molecular basis of mitochondrial complex I disorders. We created seven pools of DNA from a cohort of 103 cases and 42 healthy controls and then performed deep sequencing of 103 candidate genes to identify 151 rare variants that were predicted to affect protein function. We established genetic diagnoses in 13 of 60 previously unsolved cases using confirmatory experiments, including cDNA complementation to show that mutations in NUBPL and FOXRED1 can cause complex I deficiency. Our study illustrates how large-scale sequencing, coupled with functional prediction and experimental validation, can be used to identify causal mutations in individual cases.
Mutations in either the mitochondrial or nuclear genomes can give rise to respiratory chain disease (RCD), a large class of devastating metabolic disorders. Their clinical management is challenging, in part because we lack facile and accurate biomarkers to aid in diagnosis and in the monitoring of disease progression. Here we introduce a sequential strategy that combines biochemical analysis of spent media from cell culture with analysis of patient plasma to identify disease biomarkers. First, we applied global metabolic profiling to spotlight 32 metabolites whose uptake or secretion kinetics were altered by chemical inhibition of the respiratory chain in cultured muscle . These metabolites span a wide range of pathways and include lactate and alanine, which are used clinically as biomarkers of RCD. We next measured the cell culture-defined metabolites in human plasma to discover that creatine is reproducibly elevated in two independent cohorts of RCD patients, exceeding lactate and alanine in magnitude of elevation and statistical significance. In cell culture extracellular creatine was inversely related to the intracellular phosphocreatine:creatine ratio suggesting that the elevation of plasma creatine in RCD patients signals a low energetic state of tissues using the phosphocreatine shuttle. Our study identifies plasma creatine as a potential biomarker of human mitochondrial dysfunction that could be clinically useful. More generally, we illustrate how spent media from cellular models of disease may provide a window into the biochemical derangements in human plasma, an approach that could, in principle, be extended to a range of complex diseases.
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