Import of cytochrome c into mitochondria

Cytochrome c heme lyase

Authors

  • Donald W. NICHOLSON,

    1. Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Physikalische Biochemie und Zellbiologie der Universität München
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  • Helmut KÖHLER,

    1. Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Physikalische Biochemie und Zellbiologie der Universität München
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  • Walter NEUPERT

    Corresponding author
    1. Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Physikalische Biochemie und Zellbiologie der Universität München
      Correspondence to W. Neupert, Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Physikalische Biochemie und Zellbiologie der Universität München, Goethestraße 33, D-8000 München 2, Federal Republic of Germany
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Correspondence to W. Neupert, Institut für Physiologische Chemie, Physikalische Biochemie und Zellbiologie der Universität München, Goethestraße 33, D-8000 München 2, Federal Republic of Germany

Abstract

The import of cytochrome c into mitochondria can be resolved into a number of discrete steps. Here we report on the covalent attachment of heme to apocytochrome c by the enzyme cytochrome c heme lyase in mitochondria from Neurospora crassa.

A new method was developed to measure directly the linkage of heme to apocytochrome c. This method is independent of conformational changes in the protein accompanying heme attachment. Tryptic peptides of [35S]cysteine-labelled apocytochrome c, and of enzymatically formed holocytochrome c, were resolved by reverse-phase HPLC. The cysteine-containing peptide to which heme was attached eluted later than the corresponding peptide from apocytochrome c and could be quantified by counting 35S radioactivity as a measure of holocytochrome c formation. Using this procedure, the covalent attachment of heme to apocytochrome c, which is dependent on the enzyme cytochrome c heme lyase, could be measured. Activity required heme (as hemin) and could be reversibly inhibited by the analogue deuterohemin. Holocytochrome c formation was stimulated 5–10-fold by NADH > NADPH > glutathione and was independent of a potential across the inner mitochondrial membrane. NADH was not required for the binding of apocytochrome c to mitochondria and was not involved in the reduction of the cysteine thiols prior to heme attachment. Holocytochrome c formation was also dependent on a cytosolic factor that was necessary for the heme attaching step of cytochrome c import. The factor was a heat-stable, protease-insensitive, low-molecular-mass component of unknown function.

Cytochrome c heme lyase appeared to be a soluble protein located in the mitochondrial intermembrane space and was distinct from the previously identified apocytochrome c binding protein having a similar location. A model is presented in which the covalent attachment of heme by cytochrome c heme lyase also plays an essential role in the import pathway of cytochrome c.

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