Biogenesis of the translocase of the outer mitochondrial membrane (TOM complex) involves the assembly of the central β-barrel forming protein Tom40 with six different subunits that are embedded in the membrane via α-helical transmembrane segments. The sorting and assembly machinery (SAM complex) of the outer membrane plays a central role in this process. The SAM complex mediates the membrane integration of β-barrel precursor proteins including Tom40. The small Tom proteins Tom5 and Tom6 associate with the precursor of Tom40 at the SAM complex at an early stage of the assembly process and play a stimulatory role in the formation of the mature TOM complex. A fraction of the SAM components interacts with the outer membrane protein mitochondrial distribution and morphology protein 10 (Mdm10) to form the SAM-Mdm10 machinery; however, different views exist on the function of the SAM-Mdm10 complex. We report here that the third small Tom protein, Tom7, plays an inhibitory role at two distinct steps in the biogenesis of the TOM complex. First, Tom7 plays an antagonistic role to Tom5 and Tom6 at the early stage of Tom40 assembly at the SAM complex. Second, Tom7 interacts with Mdm10 that is not bound to the SAM complex, and thus promotes dissociation of the SAM-Mdm10 complex. Since the SAM-Mdm10 complex is required for the biogenesis of Tom22, Tom7 delays the assembly of Tom22 with Tom40 at a late stage of assembly of the TOM complex. Thus, Tom7 modulates the biogenesis of topologically different proteins, the β-barrel forming protein Tom40 and Tom22 that contains a transmembrane α-helix.
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