Molecular chaperones Hsp90 and Hsp70 deliver preproteins to the mitochondrial import receptor Tom70.
The role of cytosolic factors in protein targeting to mitochondria is poorly understood. Here, we show that in mammals, the cytosolic chaperones Hsp90 and Hsp70 dock onto a specialized TPR domain in the import receptor Tom70 at the outer mitochondrial membrane. This interaction serves to deliver a set of preproteins to the receptor for subsequent membrane translocation dependent on the Hsp90 ATPase. Disruption of the chaperone/Tom70 recognition inhibits the import of these preproteins into mitochondria. In yeast, Hsp70 rather than Hsp90 is used in import, and Hsp70 docking is required for the formation of a productive preprotein/Tom70 complex. We outline a novel mechanism in which chaperones are recruited for a specific targeting event by a membrane-bound receptor.