2Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Nanotechnology and Nanoscience Program, 32000 Haifa, Israel
* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received May 4, 2016; Revision received May 22, 2016
The diverse functions of mitochondria depend on hundreds of different proteins. The vast majority of these proteins is encoded in the nucleus, translated in the cytosol, and must be imported into the organelle. Import was shown to occur after complete synthesis of the protein, with the assistance of cytosolic chaperones that maintain it in an unfolded state and target it to the mitochondrial translocase of the outer membrane (TOM complex). Recent studies, however, identified many mRNAs encoding mitochondrial proteins near the outer membrane of mitochondria. Translation studies suggest that many of these mRNAs are translated locally, presumably allowing cotranslational import into mitochondria. Herein we review these data and discuss its relevance for local protein synthesis. We also suggest alternative roles for mRNA localization to mitochondria. Finally, we suggest future research directions, including revealing the significance of localization to mitochondria physiology and the molecular players that regulate it.
KEY WORDS: mitochondria, translation, mRNA localization, ribosome, RNA binding proteins