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The Protein Import Pore Tom40 in the Microsporidian Nosema bombycis


Corresponding Author: Z. Zhou, The State Key Laboratory of Silkworm Genome Biology, Southwest University, Beibei, Chongqing 400716, China––Telephone number: + 86 23 6825 1088; FAX number: + 86 23 6825 1128; e-mail:


Microsporidia, an unusual group of unicellular parasites related to fungi, possess a highly reduced mitochondrion known as the mitosome. Since mitosomes lack an organellar genome, their proteins must be translated in the cytosol before being imported into the mitosome via translocases. We have identified a Tom40 gene (NbTom40), the main component of the translocase of the outer mitochondrial membrane, in the genome of the microsporidian Nosema bombycis. NbTom40 is reduced in size, but it is predicted to form a β-barrel structure composed of 19 β-strands. Phylogenetic analysis confirms that NbTom40 forms a clade with Tom40 sequences from other species, distinct from a related clade of voltage-dependent anion channels (VDACs). The NbTom40 contains a β-signal motif that the polar residue is substituted by glycine. Furthermore, we show that expression of NbTom40, as a GFP fusion protein within yeast cells, directs GFP to mitochondria of yeast. These findings suggest that NbTom40 may serve as an import channel of the microsporidian mitosome and facilitate protein translocation into this organelle.