Nucleoside diphosphate kinase (NDPK) is a highly conserved multifunctional enzyme. It catalyses the transfer of γ phosphates from nucleoside triphosphates to nucleoside diphosphates by a mechanism that involves formation of an autophosphorylated enzyme intermediate. The phosphate is usually supplied by ATP. NDPK activity in different subcellular compartments may regulate the crucial balance between ATP and GTP or other nucleoside triphosphates. NDPKs are homo-oligomeric proteins and are predominantly localized in the cytosol. In this paper, we demonstrate that in Saccharomyces cerevisiae a small fraction of total NDPK activity encoded by YNK1 is present in the intermembrane space (IMS) of mitochondria, and the corresponding protein Ynk1p in the IMS represents approx. 0.005% of total mitochondrial proteins. Ynk1p, synthesized as a single gene product, must therefore be partitioned between cytoplasm and mitochondrial IMS fractions. A mechanism for this partitioning is suggested by our observations that interaction with a 40kDa protein of the translocase of outer mitochondrial membrane (Tom40p), occurs preferentially with unfolded, unphosphorylated forms of Ynk1p. A population of newly translated, but not yet folded or autophosphorylated, Ynk1p intermediates may be imported into the IMS of mitochondria and trapped there by subsequent folding and oligomerization. Within the small volume of the IMS, Ynk1p may be more concentrated and may be required to supply GTP to several important proteins in this compartment.

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