Regulation of the expression of the nuclear-encoded β-subunit of H+-ATP synthase (β-F1-ATPase) gene of oxidative phosphorylation during differentiation of liver mitochondria is mainly exerted at two post-transcriptional levels affecting both the half-life [Izquierdo, Ricart, Ostronoff, Egea and Cuezva (1995) J. Biol. Chem. 270, 10342–10350] and translational efficiency [Luis, Izquierdo, Ostronoff, Salinas, Santarén and Cuezva (1993) J. Biol. Chem. 268, 1868–1875] of the transcript. Herein, we have studied the expression of the mitochondrial (mt) genome during differentiation of rat liver mitochondria in an effort to elucidate the mechanisms of nucleo-mitochondrial cross-talk during biogenesis of the organelle. Estimation of the relative cellular representation of mt-DNA in liver reveals a negligible increase in mt-DNA copy number during organelle differentiation. Concurrently, the lack of changes in transcription rates of the mt-DNA ‘in organello’, as well as in steady-state levels of the mt-transcripts, suggests that organelle differentiation is not controlled by an increase in transcription of the mt-genome. However, translation rates in isolated mitochondria revealed a transient 2-fold increase immediately after birth. Interestingly, the transient activation of mitochondrial translation at this stage of liver development is dependent on the synthesis of proteins in cytoplasmic polyribosomes. These findings support the hypothesis that the expression of nuclear and mitochondrial genes during biogenesis of mammalian mitochondria is developmentally regulated by a post-transcriptional mechanism that involves concerted translational control of both genomes.

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