We report the presence of an ATP-dependent proteolytic activity in spinach (Spinacia oleracea) leaf mitochondria. The proteolysis was observed as degradation of newly imported precursor protein. The precursor studied was that of the ATP synthase F1 beta subunit of Nicotiana plumbaginifolia, transcribed and translated in vitro. Degradation of pre-F1 beta was observed during kinetic studies of import in vitro. The degradation was characterized in chase experiments in which the precursor was imported into mitochondria. The import reaction was subsequently stopped by the addition of valinomycin and oligomycin. The fate of the imported precursor inside the mitochondria was monitored under different experimental conditions. There was no proteolytic degradation of the newly imported precursor at 15 degrees C, whereas 50% of the precursor was degraded after a 45 min incubation at 25 degrees C. The proteolytic activity was found to be ATP-dependent and was partially inhibited by a metal chelator, o-phenanthroline. Fractionation of mitochondria prior to degradation showed that all the ATP-dependent degradative activity was associated with the mitochondrial membrane fraction. The membrane-bound protease was inhibited by Pefabloc [4-(2-aminoethyl)-benzenesulphonyl fluoride hypochloride], an inhibitor of serine-type proteases and by N-ethylmaleimide, a thiol group reagent. Our studies thus describe a novel ATP-dependent membrane-associated serine-type protease in plant mitochondria that is capable of degrading newly imported non-assembled proteins.
1995. Vol. 310 ( Pt 2)