We have recently cloned a human cDNA (hClpP) with significant sequence similarity to the ATP-dependent Escherichia coli ClpP protease [Bross, Andresen, Knudsen, Kruse and Gregersen (1995) FEBS Lett. 377, 249–252]. In the present study, synthesis, intracellular processing and subcellular localization of hClpP have been analysed in intact cells and in a cell-free system. Using pulse-labelling/immunoprecipitation of Chang cells transfected with the hClpP cDNA, we observed two major bands with apparent molecular masses of approx. 39 and 37 kDa. A pulse–chase experiment showed that these bands were converted into one mature-enzyme band with a molecular mass of approx. 32 kDa that was stable for at least 24 h. The 37 kDa band co-migrated with a band produced upon expression of full-length hClpP in E. coli, and the 32 kDa band co-migrated with the product of E. coli-expressed hClpP in which the 56 N-terminal residues had been deleted, indicating that the 37 kDa moiety represents the precursor and that approx. 56 residues are cleaved off during maturation. The processing of hClpP in intact cells was dependent on mitochondrial membrane potential. These results were confirmed in an import assay system using in vitro transcription and translation directed by the hClpP cDNA and isolated rat liver mitochondria. No protease activity towards a series of fluorogenic peptides could be observed in extracts of Chang cells overexpressing hClpP, indicating that the protease may not be active without co-factors. Immunofluorescence studies using confocal-laser-scanning microscopy showed co-localization of the hClpP and the mitochondrially located Hsp60 (heat-shock protein 60). Taken together, the results reported here show that hClpP is localized inside mitochondria and that the trafficking and processing of hClpP resembles the typical biogenesis pathway for nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins.

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Author notes

1

The first two authors contributed equally to this work.