Isolation and incubation conditions to study heart mitochondrial protein synthesis

E. E. McKee, B. L. Grier, G. S. Thompson, J. D. McCourt

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Although much is now known with regard to the processes of mammalian mitochondrial gene expression, relatively little is known concerning the quantitative regulation of this pathway is response to hormones or other physiological stimuli. This has been caused, in large part, by the lack of adequate assay systems in which such processes can be meaningfully measured. The purpose of this and the companion paper [E.E. McKee, B.L. Grier, G.S. Thompson, A.C.F. Leung, and J.D. McCourt. Am. J. Physiol. 258 (Endocrinol. Metab. 21): E503-E510, 1990] is to describe a system in which the quantitative regulation of mitochondrial protein synthesis in rat heart can be investigated. In this report the conditions for mitochondrial isolation and labeling are described, and the importance of isolating intact, tightly coupled mitochondria in obtaining high and reliable rates of protein synthesis is demonstrated. The highest levels of protein synthesis are obtained in mitochondria isolated from hearts perfused and homogenized in the presence of subtilisin, conditions in which the fastest rates of state 3 respiration and the highest respiratory control ratios are also observed. Analysis of the free amino acid pools indicates that isolated heart mitochondria have a negligible level of endogenous methionine as well as other amino acids. As a result, the concentration and specific radioactivity of the [35S]methionine pool serving protein synthesis could be easily determined. Optimal translation occurred at 30°C at a Ph of 7.0-7.2 and required the addition of methionine (20 μM), the other 19 amino acids (0.1 mM each), K+ (60-90 mM), Cl- (30-90 mM), Mg2+ (0.5-5 mM), and bovine serum albumin (1 mg/ml). As shown in the companion paper, adenine nucleotide (0.5-4.0 mM) and oxidizable substrate (10-20 mM glutamate) are also required for isolated heart mitochondrial protein synthesis. Analysis of labeled mitochondrial translation products demonstrated that bona fide mitochondrial peptides were synthesized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E492-E502
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3 21-3
StatePublished - 1990


  • mammalian mitochondria
  • mitochondrial isolation
  • mitochondrial translation
  • mitocondrial biogenesis


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