Walter Neupert & Johannes
M. Herrmann talk with ScienceWatch.com and answer
a few questions about this month's New Hot Paper in the
field of Biology & Biochemistry. The authors have
also sent along images of their work.
The functionality of cells relies on the correct delivery of each newly
synthesized polypeptide to its respective cellular location. The processes
by which mitochondrial precursor proteins are recognized in the cytosol and
transported across the mitochondrial membranes are one of the best-studied
examples for such protein translocation processes.
Over the last years a number of novel components of the mitochondrial
import machinery were identified and functionally characterized. This
provided fascinating insights into the mechanisms by which mitochondrial
precursor proteins are transported into mitochondria and sorted into their
respective mitochondrial subcompartment. This review article provides a
general but detailed overview over the mitochondrial import machinery and
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or
synthesis of knowledge?
Initially, mitochondria were seen as rather autonomous organelles which
simply provide the cell with ATP. Over the last years it became more and
more apparent that mitochondria exhibit a number of additional functions
which are critical for many cellular processes. One example is the central
role of mitochondrial proteins in
Moreover, mitochondrial dysfunctions were found to be associated with many
human diseases, in particular with neuropathies like
Alzheimer's disease, and amytrophic lateral
sclerosis (ALS). This increased the general interest in mitochondrial
biology, including mitochondrial protein biogenesis.
Where do you see your research leading in the
Mitochondria are by far not as autonomous as originally believed.
They strongly rely on the import of proteins, metabolites, metal ions etc.,
from the residual cell. These transport processes were studied in
the past to quite some detail. However, we still have only a little
understanding of how these processes are regulated and how mitochondria and
the cell communicate.
It will be exciting in the future to study the regulation of mitochondrial
processes, in particular in mammalian cells. We are convinced this will
significantly increase our understanding of the basic cellular processes
which are of outstanding relevance for human health.
Prof. Dr. Dr. Walter Neupert
Institute of Physiological Chemistry
München, Germany Web
Prof. Dr. Johannes Herrmann
Zellbiologie - Universität Kaiserslautern
Kaiserslautern, Germany Web