The Journal of biological chemistry

Mitochondrial Ribosomal Protein L12 Is Required for POLRMT Stability and Exists as Two Forms Generated by Alternative Proteolysis during Import.

PMID 26586915


To translate the 13 mtDNA-encoded mRNAs involved in oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), mammalian mitochondria contain a dedicated set of ribosomes comprising rRNAs encoded by the mitochondrial genome and mitochondrial ribosomal proteins (MRPs) that are encoded by nuclear genes and imported into the matrix. In addition to their role in the ribosome, several MRPs have auxiliary functions or have been implicated in other cellular processes like cell cycle regulation and apoptosis. For example, we have shown that human MRPL12 binds and activates mitochondrial RNA polymerase (POLRMT), and hence has distinct functions in the ribosome and mtDNA transcription. Here we provide concrete evidence that there are two mature forms of mammalian MRPL12 that are generated by a two-step cleavage during import, involving efficient cleavage by mitochondrial processing protease and a second inefficient or regulated cleavage by mitochondrial intermediate protease. We also show that knock-down of MRPL12 by RNAi results in instability of POLRMT, but not other primary mitochondrial transcription components, and a corresponding decrease in mitochondrial transcription rates. Knock-down of MRPL10, the binding partner of MRPL12 in the ribosome, results in selective degradation of the mature long form of MRPL12, but has no effect on POLRMT. We propose that the two forms of MRPL12 are involved in homeostatic regulation of mitochondrial transcription and ribosome biogenesis that likely contribute to cell cycle, growth regulation, and longevity pathways to which MRPL12 has been linked.