Oxidative phosphorylation in mitochondria requires the synthesis of proteins encoded in the mitochondrial DNA. The mitochondrial translation machinery differs significantly from that of the bacterial ancestor of the organelle. This is especially evident from many mitochondria-specific ribosomal proteins. An important site of the ribosome is the polypeptide tunnel exit. Here, nascent chains are exposed to an aqueous environment for the first time. Many biogenesis factors interact with the tunnel exit of pro- and eukaryotic ribosomes to help the newly synthesized proteins to mature. To date, nothing is known about the organization of the tunnel exit of mitochondrial ribosomes. We therefore undertook a comprehensive approach to determine the composition of the yeast mitochondrial ribosomal tunnel exit. Mitochondria contain homologues of the ribosomal proteins located at this site in bacterial ribosomes. Here, we identified proteins located in their proximity by chemical cross-linking and mass spectrometry. Our analysis revealed a complex network of interacting proteins including proteins and protein domains specific to mitochondrial ribosomes. This network includes Mba1, the membrane-bound ribosome receptor of the inner membrane, as well as Mrpl3, Mrpl13, and Mrpl27, which constitute ribosomal proteins exclusively found in mitochondria. This unique architecture of the tunnel exit is presumably an adaptation of the translation system to the specific requirements of the organelle.
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