The mitochondrial genetic systems of eukaryotes have evolved mechanisms for synthesis of small numbers of hydrophobic proteins encoded in mtDNA, insertion of those proteins into the inner membrane, and assembly of those proteins with imported nuclearly encoded subunits into active respiratory complexes. While some aspects of mitochondrial gene expression are highly divergent among different eukaryotic lineages, others are conserved. The overall goal of this proposal is to exploit the model organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae to elucidate mechanisms, conserved in humans, that control expression and assembly of mitochondrially coded proteins, focusing on the assembly of respiratory complex IV, cytochrome c oxidase. The first two specific aims seek to elucidate conserved mechanisms that regulate the synthesis and assembly of mitochondrially coded Cox1, a core catalytic subunit the enzyme. First, we will determine the function in mitochondrial gene expression of Ygr021w, a protein highly homologous to human TACO1. TACO1 is the recently described COX1 mRNA-specific translational activator whose absence causes a late-onset cytochrome oxidase deficiency disease. We will determine the cause of defective expression of the mitochondrial ARG8m reporter from the yeast COX1 locus produced by ygr021w deletion, as well as determine the physical and functional interactions of this nuclearly encoded protein. Success here will shed new light on the relatively unexplored mechanisms of translational control in human mitochondrial gene expression.
Our second aim will be to study several functions of Mss51, a COX1 mRNA-specific translational activator that couples yeast Cox1 synthesis with cytochrome oxidase assembly, and has an apparent human/mouse homolog. We hypothesize, based on previous evidence and the E. coli SecM precedent, that one function of Mss51 is to release an intrinsic Cox1 translation-elongation arrest by binding to nascent Cox1. We will test this idea using cells with mtDNA that has ARG8m translationally fused downstream of COX1, such that Arg+ growth is dependent upon this Mss51 activity. Selection of mutations in these that allow Arg+ growth of mss51 cells, will identify components required for the intrinsic arrest (possibly, for example, affecting the ribosomal exit tunnel or a Cox1 arrest sequence). Additional studies will examine other activities of Mss51 in Cox1 synthesis and early assembly steps.
Our third aim will be to identify mechanisms by which the highly conserved paralogous inner membrane translocases Oxa1 and Cox18, which have distinct functions in topogenesis of mitochondrially synthesized Cox2, promote Cox2 assembly after translocation of its hydrophilic domains to the IMS. We will test the idea that Cox18, and mutant forms of Oxa1, facilitate Cox2 C-tail interaction with the conserved IMS chaperone Cox20 and/or novel factors.

Public Health Relevance

A large number of human inherited disorders are due to defects in mitochondrial gene expression or the assembly of respiratory complexes, which taken together are responsible for a significant fraction of the overall incidence of inherited disease. Thus, better understanding of mechanisms underlying the assembly of the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation system is a significant health related priority for basic research, and could lead to novel therapies. This proposal seeks to exploit the model organism budding yeast to elucidate key steps, that are conserved in humans, in the assembly of the respiratory complex cytochrome c oxidase.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Molecular Genetics B Study Section (MGB)
Program Officer
Bender, Michael T
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Cornell University
Schools of Earth Sciences/Natur
United States
Zip Code
Elliott, Leah E; Saracco, Scott A; Fox, Thomas D (2012) Multiple roles of the Cox20 chaperone in assembly of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cytochrome c oxidase. Genetics 190:559-67
Fox, Thomas D (2012) Mitochondrial protein synthesis, import, and assembly. Genetics 192:1203-34
Kuhl, Inge; Fox, Thomas D; Bonnefoy, Nathalie (2012) Schizosaccharomyces pombe homologs of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondrial proteins Cbp6 and Mss51 function at a post-translational step of respiratory complex biogenesis. Mitochondrion 12:381-90
Mick, David U; Fox, Thomas D; Rehling, Peter (2011) Inventory control: cytochrome c oxidase assembly regulates mitochondrial translation. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 12:14-20
Yogev, Ohad; Yogev, Orli; Singer, Esti et al. (2010) Fumarase: a mitochondrial metabolic enzyme and a cytosolic/nuclear component of the DNA damage response. PLoS Biol 8:e1000328
Shingu-Vazquez, Miguel; Camacho-Villasana, Yolanda; Sandoval-Romero, Luisa et al. (2010) The carboxyl-terminal end of Cox1 is required for feedback assembly regulation of Cox1 synthesis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondria. J Biol Chem 285:34382-9
Bonnefoy, Nathalie; Fiumera, Heather L; Dujardin, Geneviève et al. (2009) Roles of Oxa1-related inner-membrane translocases in assembly of respiratory chain complexes. Biochim Biophys Acta 1793:60-70
Fiumera, Heather L; Dunham, Maitreya J; Saracco, Scott A et al. (2009) Translocation and assembly of mitochondrially coded Saccharomyces cerevisiae cytochrome c oxidase subunit Cox2 by Oxa1 and Yme1 in the absence of Cox18. Genetics 182:519-28
Perez-Martinez, Xochitl; Butler, Christine A; Shingu-Vazquez, Miguel et al. (2009) Dual functions of Mss51 couple synthesis of Cox1 to assembly of cytochrome c oxidase in Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitochondria. Mol Biol Cell 20:4371-80
Ding, Martina G; Butler, Christine A; Saracco, Scott A et al. (2008) Introduction of cytochrome b mutations in Saccharomyces cerevisiae by a method that allows selection for both functional and non-functional cytochrome b proteins. Biochim Biophys Acta 1777:1147-56

Showing the most recent 10 out of 87 publications