An N-Terminal Formyl Methionine on COX 1 is Required for the Assembly of Cytochrome c Oxidase

Hinttala et al., Hum. Mol. Genet. (2015) - PMID: 25911677

Product(s) used in this publication:  Reference Peptides for Targeted Proteomics - SpikeTides™ & SpikeMix™


Protein synthesis in mitochondria is initiated by formylmethionyl-tRNA(Met) (fMet-tRNA(Met)), which requires the activity of the enzyme MTFMT to formylate the methionyl group. We investigated the molecular consequences of mutations in MTFMT in patients with Leigh syndrome or cardiomyopathy. All patients studied were compound heterozygotes. Levels of MTFMT in patient fibroblasts were almost undetectable by immunoblot analysis, and BN-PAGE analysis showed a combined oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) assembly defect involving complexes I, IV and V. The synthesis of only a subset of mitochondrial polypeptides (ND5, ND4, ND1, COXII) was decreased, whereas all others were translated at normal or even increased rates. Expression of the wild-type cDNA rescued the biochemical phenotype when MTFMT was expressed near control levels, but overexpression produced a dominant-negative phenotype, completely abrogating assembly of the OXPHOS complexes, suggesting that MTFMT activity must be tightly regulated. fMet-tRNA(Met) was almost undetectable in control cells and absent in patient cells by high-resolution northern blot analysis, but accumulated in cells overexpressing MTFMT. Newly synthesized COXI was under-represented in complex IV immunoprecipitates from patient fibroblasts, and two-dimensional BN-PAGE analysis of newly synthesized mitochondrial translation products showed an accumulation of free COXI. Quantitative mass spectrophotometry of an N-terminal COXI peptide showed that the ratio of formylated to unmodified N-termini in the assembled complex IV was ∼350:1 in controls and 4:1 in patient cells. These results show that mitochondrial protein synthesis can occur with inefficient formylation of methionyl-tRNA(Met), but that assembly of complex IV is impaired if the COXI N-terminus is not formylated.

© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:

Stay in touch and be the first to receive the latest news!