Targeting of the mitochondrial membrane proteins to the cell surface for functional studies

Hossein Ardehali, Tian Xue, Peihong Dong, Carolyn Machamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Studying mitochondrial membrane proteins for ion or substrate transport is technically difficult, as the organelles are hidden within the cell interior and thus inaccessible to many conventional nondisruptive techniques. This technical barrier can potentially be overcome if the mitochondrial membrane proteins are targeted to the cell surface, where they can be more readily studied. We undertook experiments presented here to target two related mitochondrial membrane proteins, mitochondrial ATP-binding cassette-1 and -2 protein (mABC1 and mABC2, respectively) to the cell surface for functional studies. These two proteins have an N-terminal mitochondrial targeting signal (MTS), and we hypothesized that removal of this sequence or addition of a cell surface targeting signal would lead to cell membrane targeting of these proteins. When the MTS was removed from mABC1, it localized to intracellular secretory compartments as well as the plasma membrane. However, truncated mABC2 lacking the MTS aggregated inside the cell. Addition of a cell membrane signal sequence or the transmembrane domain from CD8 to the N-terminus of mABC1 or mABC2 resulted in similar subcellular localizations. We then performed patch clamp on cells expressing mABC1 on their surface. These cells exhibited nonselective transport of K+ and Na+ ions and resulted in the loss of membrane potential. Our findings open new ways to study mitochondrial membrane proteins in established cell culture systems by targeting them to the cell surface, where they can more reliably be studied using various molecular and cellular techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1143-1151
Number of pages9
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 16 2005


  • ATP-binding cassette proteins
  • Membrane proteins
  • Mitochondria
  • Mitochondrial targeting signal
  • Protein trafficking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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