Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, ZBMZ, Faculty of Medicine, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany; CIBSS Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies, University of Freiburg, 79104 Freiburg, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]
The mitochondrial inner membrane harbors a large number of metabolite carriers. The precursors of carrier proteins are synthesized in the cytosol and imported into mitochondria by the translocase of the outer membrane (TOM) and the carrier translocase of the inner membrane (TIM22). Molecular chaperones in the cytosol and intermembrane space bind to the hydrophobic precursors to prevent their aggregation. We report that the major metabolite channel of the outer membrane, termed porin or voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC), promotes efficient import of carrier precursors. Porin interacts with carrier precursors arriving in the intermembrane space and recruits TIM22 complexes, thus ensuring an efficient transfer of the precursors to the inner membrane translocase. Porin channel mutants impaired in metabolite transport are not disturbed in carrier import into mitochondria. We conclude that porin serves distinct functions as outer membrane channel for metabolites and as coupling factor for protein translocation into the inner membrane.