Investigating cell type specific mitochondrial protein import in health and disease

PhD Top-up Scholarships

$11,250 AUD

13/04/2020 → 14/01/2022

Carolyn Sue


Alexander Anderson


University of Melbourne


Dr Diana Stojanovski

Project Name

Investigating cell type specific mitochondrial protein import in health and disease

Project Details

Mitochondria are the structures that produce energy for our cells. They also detoxify waste, produce cellular building blocks and regulate immune responses. All tissues in the body have mitochondria, but particular mitochondrial functions are crucial for some organs and not others. These are what we refer to as ‘cell-specific functions’. The breakdown of cell-specific functions may be why some mitochondrial diseases impact a single body system or tissue type, while others manifest symptoms throughout the body.

To achieve their many functions, the mitochondria rely on a collection of specialised proteins. Each protein has a unique job that contributes to an aspect of mitochondrial function. However, these proteins first need to be brought into mitochondria by a process known as mitochondrial protein import. Mitochondrial protein import is itself a role performed by specialised proteins that form large machineries known as translocase complexes. This project focuses on two protein import machineries, the Tim8-Tim13 complex and the TIM23 translocase.

Both of these complexes have component proteins that cause mitochondrial diseases when not working properly. These proteins are also found in different amounts throughout various tissues. This project is focused on describing the function of these complexes and their disease-associated components. I am also interested in how these two complexes contribute to cell-specific functions of mitochondria.

I will study the Tim8-Tim13 and TIM23 complexes in cultured cells of different tissue types, primarily using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. I hope this will improve our understanding of mitochondrial biology and provide insight into possible therapeutics for mito.