A Biophysical Analysis of the Tetratricopeptide Repeat-rich Mitochondrial Import Receptor, Tom70, Reveals an Elongated Monomer That Is Inherently Flexible, Unstable, and Unfolds via a Multistate Pathway
Proteins destined for all submitochondrial compartments are translocated across the outer mitochondrial membrane by the TOM (translocase of the outer membrane) complex, which consists of a number of specialized receptor subunits that bind mitochondrial precursor proteins for delivery into the translocation channel. One receptor, Tom70, binds large, hydrophobic mitochondrial precursors. The current model of Tom70-mediated import involves multiple dimers of the receptor recognizing a single molecule of substrate. Here we show via a battery of biophysical and spectroscopic techniques that the cytosolic domain of Tom70 is an elongated monomer. Thermal and urea-induced denaturation revealed that the receptor, which unfolds via a multistate pathway, is a relatively unstable molecule undergoing major conformational change at physiological temperatures. The data suggest that the malleability of the monomeric Tom70 receptor is an important factor in mitochondrial import.