Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in a new study have shown how interaction between a specific enzyme and protein channel plays a crucial role in proper mitochondrial function.
According to IISc, mitochondria are essential organelles and the power plants of the cell. They convert oxygen and nutrients into energy through a process called cellular respiration.
“The proper functioning of mitochondria requires hundreds of proteins synthesised in the cytoplasm – the fluid found inside a cell – and transported into the mitochondria. Mitochondrial dysfunction brings about an energy crisis and probable cell death in high energy-consuming tissues such as the brain, heart, and skeletal muscle,” said IISc.
It added that maintaining a balance in both the quality and quantity of these proteins is crucial to ensure proper mitochondrial function, thus preventing pathophysiology associated with mitochondrial diseases.
IISc said that Prof. Patrick D’Silva of the Department of Biochemistry and his team are working to understand the fundamental aspects of the processes involved in mitochondrial protein production, transport, and degradation using yeast as a model, which is necessary to uncover the proper functioning of mitochondria in all higher organisms.
“Each mitochondrion is enclosed by an inner and an outer membrane. Complex hydrophobic proteins that need to localise in the inner membrane enter the mitochondria through a protein channel called the TIM22 complex. A protein-degrading enzyme called Yme1 closely checks the number of proteins transported through the channel. If the gene coding for Yme1 is deleted, mitochondrial proteins accumulate in an unregulated manner within the cytoplasm, causing impairment in mitochondrial health and leading to overall growth defects,” it added.
Mitochondrial dysfunction leads to many neurological and muscular diseases and disorders associated with aging and this study will help in understanding the development of these diseases in higher-order organisms.