The controlled biogenesis of mitochondria is a key cellular system coordinated with the cell division cycle, and major efforts in systems biology currently are directed toward understanding of the control points at which this coordination is achieved. Here we present insights into the function, evolution, and regulation of mitochondrial biogenesis through the study of the protein import machinery in the human fungal pathogen, Candida albicans. Features that distinguish C. albicans from baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) include the stringency of metabolic control at the level of oxygen consumption, the potential for ATP exchange through the porin in the outer membrane, and components and domains in the sorting and assembling machinery complex, a molecular machine that drives the assembly of proteins in the outer mitochondrial membrane. Analysis of targeting sequences and assays of mitochondrial protein import show that components of the electron transport chain are imported by distinct pathways in C. albicans and S. cerevisiae, representing an evolutionary rewiring of mitochondrial import pathways. We suggest that studies using this pathogen as a model system for mitochondrial biogenesis will greatly enhance our knowledge of how mitochondria are made and controlled through the course of the cell-division cycle.
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