Research Topic

Biogenesis of the oxidative phosphorylation machinery in plants. From gene expression to complex assembly

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Mitochondrial biogenesis is an extremely complex process. A hint of this complexity is clearly indicated by the many steps and factors required to assemble the respiratory complexes involved in oxidative phosphorylation. These steps include the expression of genes present in both the nucleus and the ...

Mitochondrial biogenesis is an extremely complex process. A hint of this complexity is clearly indicated by the many steps and factors required to assemble the respiratory complexes involved in oxidative phosphorylation. These steps include the expression of genes present in both the nucleus and the organelle, intricate post-transcriptional RNA processing events, the coordinated synthesis, transport and assembly of the different subunits, the synthesis and assembly of co-factors and, finally, the formation of supercomplexes or respirasomes. It can be envisaged, and current knowledge supports this view, that plants have evolved specific mechanisms for the biogenesis of respiratory complexes. For example, expression of the mitochondrial genome in plants has special features, not present in other groups of eukaryotes. Moreover, plant mitochondrial biogenesis and function should be considered in the context of the presence of the chloroplast, a second organelle involved in energetic and redox metabolism. It implies the necessity to discriminate between proteins destined for each organelle and requires the establishment of functional interconnections between photosynthesis and respiration. In recent years, our knowledge of the mechanisms involved in these different processes in plants has considerably increased. As a result, the many events and factors necessary for the correct expression of proteins encoded in the mitochondrial genome, the cis acting elements and factors responsible for the expression of nuclear genes encoding respiratory chain components, the signals and mechanisms involved in the import of proteins synthesized in the cytosol and the many factors required for the synthesis and assembly of the different redox co-factors (heme groups, iron-sulfur clusters, copper centers) are beginning to be recognized at the molecular level. However, detailed knowledge of these processes is still not complete and, especially, little is known about how these processes are interconnected. Questions such as how the proteins, once synthesized in the mitochondrial matrix, are inserted into the membrane and assembled with other components, including those imported from the cytosol, how the expression of both genomes is coordinated and responds to changes in mitochondrial function, cellular requirements or environmental cues, or which factors and conditions influence the assembly of complexes and supercomplexes are still open and will receive much attention in the near future.
This Research Topic is aimed at establishing a collection of articles that focus on the different processes involved in the biogenesis of respiratory complexes in plants as a means to highlight recent advances. In this way, it intends to help to construct a picture of the whole process and, not less important, to expose the existing gaps that need to be addressed to fully understand how plant cells build and modulate the complex structures involved in respiration.


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