The phospholipid cardiolipin mediates the functional interactions of proteins that reside within energy-conserving biological membranes. However, the molecular basis by which this lipid performs this essential cellular role is not well understood. We address this role of cardiolipin using the multisubunit mitochondrial TIM23 protein transport complex as a model system. The early stages of protein import by this complex require specific interactions between the polypeptide substrate receptor, Tim50, and the membrane-bound channel-forming subunit, Tim23. Using analyses performed in vivo, in isolated mitochondria, and in reductionist nanoscale model membrane systems, we show that the soluble receptor domain of Tim50 interacts with membranes and with specific sites on the Tim23 channel in a manner that is directly modulated by cardiolipin. To obtain structural insights into the nature of these interactions, we obtained the first small-angle x-ray scattering-based structure of the soluble Tim50 receptor in its entirety. Using these structural insights, molecular dynamics simulations combined with a range of biophysical measurements confirmed the role of cardiolipin in driving the association of the Tim50 receptor with lipid bilayers with concomitant structural changes, highlighting the role of key structural elements in mediating this interaction. Together, these results show that cardiolipin is required to mediate specific receptor-channel associations in the TIM23 complex. Our results support a new working model for the dynamic structural changes that occur within the complex during transport. More broadly, this work strongly advances our understanding of how cardiolipin mediates interactions among membrane-associated proteins.
Malhotra K, Modak A, Nangia S, Daman TH, Gunsel U, Robinson VL, Mokranjac D, May ER, Alder NN. (2017). Cardiolipin mediates membrane and channel interactions of the mitochondrial TIM23 protein import complex receptor Tim50. Science advances, 3(9)