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Posted by bio_man   December 31, 2018   952 views

To produce cellular energy, nearly all multicellular organisms use a series of highly specialized proteins embedded in the inner member of the mitochondria to transport and pump electrons, collectively known as the electron transport chain. A new study has revealed that this is not the case in European mistletoes, the traditional Christmas ornament hung to give someone a kiss underneath it.

After sequencing the organism's genome, researchers couldn't find any mitochondrial genes for coding the protein subunits that make up the electron transport chain’s first station, called complex I. To find out which parts of the assembly line machinery had disappeared, researchers extracted proteins from mitochondria in the mistletoe's leaves and compared them to those in a small flowering weed of the mustard family called Arabidopsis thaliana. Although they found evidence for the machinery of other stations in the mistletoe transport chain, they couldn't detect any sign of complex I. Furthermore, the other transport chain stations, namely complexes II to V, were found to have 14% to 44% less protein than Arabidopsis did, suggesting that mistletoe is unable to produce all the energy it needs using this system.

To accommodate for the discrepancy, scientists say the organism had to make some extreme adjustments to its metabolism. Given that European mistletoes are parasitic, it can make energy by breaking down carbohydrates obtained from their hosts via a different mechanism. The stolen sugar might just be enough to make up for their faulty electron transport chain assembly line.

Source 1) https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/05/mistletoe-missing-machinery-make-energy
2) http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(18)30379-8

Mitochondria Evolution ATP Synthesis Christmas
Posted in Research
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