The association between bovine and porcine mitochondrial malate dehydrogenase (EC and phospholipid vesicles was investigated. At concentrations at which malate dehydrogenase exists as a dimer, entrapment within the aqueous compartment but not binding of the 14C-labelled enzyme was observed. The dissociated enzyme was labile to moderate heat and to p-chloromercuribenzoate, but in both cases inactivation was decreased by incubation with suspensions of charged phospholipid vesicles. This suggested an interaction between enzyme subunits and phospholipid, and this was confirmed by direct binding measurements and by studies that followed changes in the fluorescein-labelled enzyme. The circular-dichroism spectra of the enzyme indicated a high alpha-helix content, and suggested that a small conformational change occurred when the enzyme dissociated. Fluorescence data also suggested less-rigid molecules after dissociation. A possible mechanism, based on the flexibility of enzyme monomer and its interaction with phospholipids, by which mitochondrial matrix enzymes are specifically localized in cells, is discussed.

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