Eukaryotic cells store and utilize metabolites in different organelles ? referred to as subcellular metabolite compartmentalization. Distinct pools of metabolic enzymes and substrates provide another layer of flexibility in metabolite utilization, thereby allowing for robust adaptation to a variety of intrinsic cues and external stress. In turn, defects in the processes are associated with metabolic disorders, including obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. One of the critical regulators of metabolite compartmentalization is mitochondrial transporters: a large number of carrier proteins, many of which belong to the SLC25A protein family, mediate the translocation of metabolites across the impermeable mitochondrial inner-membrane and control their availability in the mitochondrial matrix. However, a vast majority of the mitochondrial SLC25A carrier proteins are ?orphan? transporters, i.e., their specific substrates and biological functions remain unknown. The lack of our knowledge is primarily due to the fact that many mitochondrial membrane proteins cannot be reconstituted correctly in the conventional experimental system, i.e., liposomes using recombinant proteins made in E. Coli or yeast. To circumvent this issue, we developed a robust experimental platform that enables systemic characterization of mammalian mitochondrial transporters using brown fat, one of the most mitochondria- enriched cells. We incorporated the CRISPRi and CRISPRa system in immortalized brown adipocytes, such that we can obtain essentially unlimited amounts of ?designer mitochondria? in mice and humans. By employing the new system, my lab has recently identified SLC25A44 as the first mitochondrial BCAA transporter in mammals, a long-standing mystery in the field (Yoneshiro et al. Nature 2019). This proposal aims to generate a complete functional map of mitochondrial SLC25A metabolite transporters in mammals. To achieve this goal, we plan to apply the state-of-art metabolomics and mitochondrial-liposomes to the brown fat-derived designer mitochondria, and to determine the specific substrates for orphan SLC25A carrier proteins. We will further determine the physiological and pathological roles of orphan SLC25A transporters in vivo, with an emphasis on metabolic disorders. The work resulting from this application will establish a conceptual framework to understand the molecular regulation of mitochondrial metabolite compartmentalization, and also provide a new roadmap for reversing disease phenotypes that stem from defects in such processes.
Dysregulated metabolite delivery to the mitochondria lies at the heart of metabolic disorders; however, the vast majority of mitochondrial transporters remain uncharacterized. By employing our newly developed system using brown fat, this proposal aims to generate a complete functional map of mitochondrial metabolite transporters in mammals, i.e., identification of specific substrates and biological/pathological roles of orphan mitochondrial transporters. Successful completion of the project will establish a conceptual framework to understand the molecular regulation of mitochondrial metabolite utilization, and also provide a new roadmap for reversing disease phenotypes that stem from dysregulation in such processes.