Mimivirus (Acanthamoeba polyphaga mimivirus) was the first giant DNA virus identified in an amoeba species. Its genome contains at least 979 genes. One of these, L276, encodes a nucleotide translocator with similarities to mitochondrial metabolite carriers, provisionally named viral mitochondrial carrier 1 (VMC1). In this study, we investigated the intracellular distribution of VMC1 upon expression in HeLa cells and in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We found that VMC1 is specifically targeted to mitochondria and to the inner mitochondrial membrane. Newly synthesized VMC1 binds to the mitochondrial outer-membrane protein Tom70 and translocates through the import channel formed by the β-barrel protein Tom40. Derivatization of the four cysteine residues inside Tom40 by N-ethylmaleimide caused a delay in translocation but not a complete occlusion. Cell viability was not reduced by VMC1. Neither the mitochondrial membrane potential nor the intracellular production of reactive oxygen species was affected. Similar to endogenous metabolite carriers, mimivirus-encoded VMC1 appears to act as a specific translocator in the mitochondrial inner membrane. Due to its permeability for deoxyribonucleotides, VMC1 confers to the mitochondria an opportunity to contribute nucleotides for the replication of the large DNA genome of the virus.
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