A Mitochondrial Pyruvate Carrier Required for Pyruvate Uptake in Yeast, Drosophila, and Humans

Science  06 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6090, pp. 96-100
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218099

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Letting Pyruvate In

Transport of pyruvate is an important event in metabolism whereby the pyruvate formed in glycolysis is transported into mitochondria to feed into the tricarboxylic acid cycle (see the Perspective by Murphy and Divakaruni). Two groups have now identified proteins that are components of the mitochondrial pyruvate transporter. Bricker et al. (p. 96, published online 24 May) found that the proteins mitochondrial pyruvate carrier 1 and 2 (MPC1 and MPC2) are required for full pyruvate transport in yeast and Drosophila cells and that humans with mutations in MPC1 have metabolic defects consistent with loss of the transporter. Herzig et al. (p. 93, published online 24 May) identified the same proteins as components of the carrier in yeast. Furthermore, expression of the mouse proteins in bacteria conferred increased transport of pyruvate into bacterial cells.


Pyruvate constitutes a critical branch point in cellular carbon metabolism. We have identified two proteins, Mpc1 and Mpc2, as essential for mitochondrial pyruvate transport in yeast, Drosophila, and humans. Mpc1 and Mpc2 associate to form an ~150-kilodalton complex in the inner mitochondrial membrane. Yeast and Drosophila mutants lacking MPC1 display impaired pyruvate metabolism, with an accumulation of upstream metabolites and a depletion of tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediates. Loss of yeast Mpc1 results in defective mitochondrial pyruvate uptake, and silencing of MPC1 or MPC2 in mammalian cells impairs pyruvate oxidation. A point mutation in MPC1 provides resistance to a known inhibitor of the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier. Human genetic studies of three families with children suffering from lactic acidosis and hyperpyruvatemia revealed a causal locus that mapped to MPC1, changing single amino acids that are conserved throughout eukaryotes. These data demonstrate that Mpc1 and Mpc2 form an essential part of the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier.

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