Functional proteomics and biochemistry: working together to unravel mitochondrial phenomena of African trypanosomes

Niemann, Moritz (24 March 2015). Functional proteomics and biochemistry: working together to unravel mitochondrial phenomena of African trypanosomes (Unpublished). In: Invited Seminar. Theodor-Boveri-Institut, Biozentrum der Universität Würzburg, Deutschland. 24.03.2015.

Eukaryotic cells are compartmentalized into membrane-bound organelles in order to provide sheltered reaction rooms for various specific processes. Organelles are not randomly distributed in a cell or operate isolated from each other. At the contrary — some organelles are closely linked and their functions are tightly orchestrated. The most well-known example of two such organelles acting in concert are the ER and the mitochondrion that work together in order to coordinate cellular lipid biosynthesis, maintain Ca2+-homeostasis, regulate mitochondrial division and control mitochondrial/ER shape as well as to synchronize the movement of these organelles within a cell. To study the mitochondrion and its interface to the ER requires a simplified mitochondrial system. African trypanosomes represent such a system. The unicellular parasite that causes devastating diseases in humans and animals has only one large mitochondrion that does not undergo fission/fusion events except for the context of cell division. Moreover, mitochondrial functions and morphology are highly regulated throughout the life cycle of the protozoan. Central to the understanding of how mitochondria control their morphology, communicate with their surroundings and manage exchange of metabolites and transport of biopolymers (proteins, RNAs) is the mitochondrial outer membrane (MOM), as the MOM defines the boundary of the organelle. Recently, we have purified the MOM of T. brucei and characterized its proteome using label-free quantitative mass spectrometry for protein abundance profiling in combination with statistical analysis. Our results show that the trypanosomal MOM proteome consists of 82 proteins, two thirds of which have never been associated with mitochondria before. Among these, we identified novel factors required to regulate mitochondrial morphology and the long-elusive protein import machinery of T. brucei. A comparison with the MOM proteome of yeast defines a set of 17 common proteins that are likely present in the mitochondrial outer membrane of all eukaryotes. One of these is the Miro-GTPase Gem1. In yeast, this Ca2+-EF-Hand containing polypeptide is thought to be involved in a protein complex that physically tethers the mitochondrion to the ER. Interestingly, a putative tethering complex in mammalian cells was linked to the mitochondrial fusion/fission machinery. Thus, the concept of a protein complex-mediated connection seems to be a general and conserved feature. We are currently investigating, if such a protein complex exists in T. brucei and if the trypanosomal Gem1 protein is involved. This ER-subdomain associated with mitochondria has been termed mitochondria-associated ER-membranes or MAM. The MAM has recently been implicated to play a key role in Alzheimer’s disease. It is therefore of broad and general interest to establish other eukaryotic model systems in order to investigate the MAM-MOM connection in more detail.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


08 Faculty of Science > Departement of Chemistry and Biochemistry

UniBE Contributor:

Niemann, Moritz


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry




Christina Schüpbach

Date Deposited:

28 Jan 2016 15:21

Last Modified:

28 Jan 2016 15:21


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