A defect in mitochondrial protein synthesis has previously been identified in the respiration-deficient Chinese hamster lung fibroblast mutant V79-G7. The present work extends the characterization of this mutant. A more sensitive analysis has shown that mutant mitochondria synthesize all mitochondrially encoded peptides, but in significantly reduced amounts. This difference is also seen when isolated mitochondria are tested for in vitro protein synthesis. To distinguish between a defect in the translational machinery and a defect in the transcription of mitochondrial DNA, we investigated the synthesis of the 16S and 12S mitochondrial rRNA species and found them to be made in normal amounts in G7 mitochondria. These rRNA species appear to be assembled into subunits whose sedimentation behavior is virtually indistinguishable from that of the wild-type subunits. We also examined the consequences of the defect in mitochondrial protein synthesis on mutant cells and their mitochondria-utilizing techniques of electron microscopy, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and immunochemical analysis. G7 mitochondria have a characteristic ultrastructure distinguished by predominantly tubular cristae, but the overall biochemical composition of mitochondrial membrane and matrix fractions appears essentially unaltered except for the absence of a few characteristic peptides. Specifically, we identify the absence of two mitochondrially encoded subunits of cytochrome c oxidase on two-dimensional gels and demonstrate a drastic reduction of both cytoplasmically and mitochondrially synthesized subunits of enzyme in immunoprecipitates of G7 mitochondria.

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