The inner membrane (IM) of mitochondria displays an intricate, highly folded architecture and can be divided into two domains: the inner boundary membrane adjacent to the outer membrane and invaginations toward the matrix, called cristae. Both domains are connected by narrow, tubular membrane segments called cristae junctions (CJs). The formation and maintenance of CJs is of vital importance for the organization of the mitochondrial IM and for mitochondrial and cellular physiology. The multisubunit mitochondrial contact site and cristae organizing system (MICOS) was found to be a major factor in CJ formation. In this study, we show that the MICOS core component Mic60 actively bends membranes and, when inserted into prokaryotic membranes, induces the formation of cristae-like plasma membrane invaginations. The intermembrane space domain of Mic60 has a lipid-binding capacity and induces membrane curvature even in the absence of the transmembrane helix. Mic60 homologues from α-proteobacteria display the same membrane deforming activity and are able to partially overcome the deletion of Mic60 in eukaryotic cells. Our results show that membrane bending by Mic60 is an ancient mechanism, important for cristae formation, and had already evolved before α-proteobacteria developed into mitochondria.
- Submitted: 9 September 2016
- Revision received 4 January 2017
- Accepted: 13 January 2017
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