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Rubalcava-Gracia, Diana; Garcia-Rincon, Juan; Perez-Montfort, Ruy; Hamel, Patrice Paul; Gonzalez-Halphen, Diego (2019)

KEY WITHIN-MEMBRANE RESIDUES AND PRECURSOR DOSAGE IMPACT THE ALLOTOPIC EXPRESSION OF YEAST SUBUNIT II OF CYTOCHROME C OXIDASE

Mol. Biol. Cell 30(18):2358-2366
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Experimentally relocating mitochondrial genes to the nucleus for functional expression (allotopic expression) is a challenging process. The high hydrophobicity of mitochondria-encoded proteins seems to be one of the main factors preventing this allotopic expression. We focused on subunit II of cytochrome oxidase (Cox2) to study which modifications may enable or improve its allotopic expression in yeast. Cox2 can be imported from the cytosol into mitochondria in the presence of the W56R substitution, which decreases the protein hydrophobicity and allows partial respiratory rescue of a -null strain. We show that the inclusion of a positive charge is more favorable than substitutions that only decrease the hydrophobicity. We also searched for other determinants enabling allotopic expression in yeast by examining the gene in organisms where it was transferred to the nucleus during evolution. We found that naturally occurring variations at within-membrane residues in the legume Cox2 could enable yeast allotopic expression. We also evidence that directing high doses of allotopically synthesized Cox2 to mitochondria seems to be counterproductive because the subunit aggregates at the mitochondrial surface. Our findings are relevant to the design of allotopic expression strategies and contribute to the understanding of gene retention in organellar genomes.