The cytosolic domain of the human mitochondrial protein import receptor, hTom20, has been expressed as a fusion protein with glutathione S-transferase (GST) in bacteria and the purified protein immobilized on Sepharose beads. To discriminate between specific binding of precursor proteins with the receptor and non-specific binding, precursors were recovered as a complex with GST-hTom20 following competitive elution from the beads with reduced glutathione. Here, we describe the specificity of this assay and demonstrate that the cytosolic domain of hTom20 interacts directly with the transcription-translation product of precursor proteins that bear a diverse array of targeting signals. Such proteins include a matrix protein (pODHFR), a polytopic integral protein of the inner membrane (uncoupling protein), a beta-barrel protein of the outer membrane (VDAC/porin) as well as bitopic integral proteins which are inserted into the outer membrane by either an NH2-terminal or COOH-terminal signal anchor sequence (yTom70(1-29)DHFR and Bcl-2, respectively).
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