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- Accessory subunits of complex I from Yarrowia lipolytica (2005)
- Mitochondial NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) the largest multiprotein enzyme of the respiratory chain, catalyses the transfer of two electrons from NADH to ubiquinone, coupled to the translocation of four protons across the membrane. In addition to the 14 strictly conserved central subunits it contains a variable number of accessory subunits. At present, the best characterized enzyme is complex I from bovine heart with a molecular mass of about 980 kDa and 32 accessory proteins. In this study, the subunit composition of mitochondrial complex I from the aerobic yeast Y. lipolytica has been analysed by a combination of proteomic and genomic approaches. The sequences of 37 complex I subunits were identified. The sum of their individual molecular masses (about 930 kDa) was consistent with the native molecular weight of approximately 900 kDa for Y. lipolytica complex I obtained by BN-PAGE. A genomic analysis with Y. lipolytica and other eukaryotic databases to search for homologues of complex I subunits revealed 31 conserved proteins among the examined species. A novel protein named “X” was found in purified Y. lipolytica complex I by MALDI-MS. This protein exhibits homology to the thiosulfate sulfurtransferase enzyme referred to as rhodanese. The finding of a rhodanese-like protein in isolated complex I of Y. lipolytica allows to assume a special regulatory mechanism of complex I activity through control of the status of its iron-sulfur clusters. The second part of this study was aimed at investigating the possible role of one of these extra subunits, 39 kDa (NUEM) subunit which is related to the SDRs-enzyme family. The members of this family function in different redox and isomerization reactions and contain a conserved NAD(P)H-binding site. It was proposed that the 39 kDa subunit may be involved in a biosynthetic pathway, but the role of this subunit in complex I is unknown. In contrast to the situation in N. crassa, deletion of the 39 kDa encoding gene in Y. lipolytica led to the absence of fully assembled complex I. This result might indicate a different pathway of complex I assembly in both organisms. Several site-directed mutations were generated in the nucleotide binding motif. These had either no effect on enzyme activity and NADPH binding, or prevented complex I assembly. Mutations of arginine-65 that is located at the end of the second b-strand and responsible for selective interaction with the 2’-phosphate group of NADPH retained complex I activity in mitochondrial membranes but the affinity for the cofactor was markedly decreased. Purification of complex I from mutants resulted in decrease or loss of ubiquinone reductase activity. It is very likely that replacement of R65 not only led to a decrease in affinity for NADPH but also caused instability of the enzyme due to steric changes in the 39 kDa subunit. These data indicate that NADPH bound to the 39 kDa subunit (NUEM) is not essential for complex I activity, but probably involved in complex I assembly in Y. lipolytica.
- Association of bacterial respiratory complexes (2006)
- The mitochondrial respiratory chain consists of NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (Complex-I), succinate:ubiquinone reductase (Complex-II), ubiquinol:cytochrome c reductase (Complex-III), cytochrome c oxidase (Complex-IV) and cytochrome c as an electron mediator between Complex-III and Complex-IV. Paracoccus denitrificans membranes were used as a model system for the association of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. More than 50 years ago, a model was given for a supercomplex assembly formed by stable associations between these complexes. This model gradually shifted by the model of random diffusion given by Hackenbrock et al. 1986 Different independent approaches were used to further analyze this situation in a native membrane environment, thus avoiding any perturbation caused by detergent solubilization: (a) measuring the distance and orientation of the different complexes by multi-frequency EPR Spectroscopy we started to analyze simple system, the interaction between CuA fragment derived from P. denitrificans and various c type cytochrome by Pulsed X band and G band (180 GHz) EPR. Partner proteins for the CuA (excess negative surface charge) were (i) horse heart cytochrome c which contain a large number of positive charges in heme crevice,(ii) the cytochrome c552 soluble fragment (physiological electron donor and have positive charges), and as a control (iii) the cytochrome c1 soluble fragment (negative surface potential, derived from bc1 complex) The measurements were performed at several magnetic field positions varying temperature between 5 to 30 K. Both the X band and the high-field measurements show the existence of a strong relaxation enhancement of the CuA by the specific binding of the P. denitrificans cytochrome c552 and horse heart cytochrome c. This relaxation enhancement is dependent on temperature and provides information about the distance and relative orientation of the two interacting spins within this protein-protein complex. (b) For quantitative information about lateral diffusion of cytochrome c oxidase in the native membrane Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS) was used. In this experiment, diffusion coefficients for oxidase differ in the case of supercomplex for wild type membrane and for two deletion mutants lacking either Complex-I or Complex-III. (c) The optical absorption spectroscopy at microsecond level resolution was tried for the translational mobility of oxidase in membrane vesicles. Due to the presence of different hemes in the native membrane, carbon monoxide (CO) used as a probe for the experiment. The optimization of the experimental conditions were carried out to get the optimal signal.
- Biochemical, structural and functional characterization of diheme-containing quinol:fumarate reductases : the role of heme propionates and the enzymes from pathogenic e-proteobacteria (2005)
- The quinol:fumarate reductase (QFR) is the terminal reductase of anaerobic fumarate respiration, the most commonly occurring type of anaerobic respiration. This membrane protein complex couples the oxidation of menaquinol to menaquinone to the reduction of fumarate to succinate. The three-dimensional crystal structure of the QFR from Wolinella succinogenes has previoulsy been solved at 2.2 Å resolution. Although the diheme-containing QFR from W. succinogenes is known to catalyze an electroneutral process, structural and functional characterization of parental and variant enzymes has revealed active site locations which indicate electrogenic catalysis across the membrane. A solution to this apparent controversy was proposed with the so-called “Epathway hypothesis”. According to this, transmembrane electron transfer via the heme groups is strictly coupled to a parallel, compensatory transfer of protons via a transiently established pathway, which is inactive in the oxidized state of the enzyme. Proposed constituents of the E-pathway are the side chain of Glu C180, and the ring C propionate of the distal heme. Previous experimental evidence strongly supports such a role for the former constituent. One aim of this thesis is to investigate by a combination of specific 13C-heme propionate labeling and FTIR difference spectroscopy whether the ring C propionate of the distal heme is involved in redox-coupled proton transfer in the QFR from W. succinogenes. In addition to W. succinogenes, the primary structures of the QFR enzymes of two other e- proteobacteria are known. These are Campylobacter jejuni and Helicobacter pylori, which unlike W. succinogenes are human pathogens. The QFR from H. pylori has previously been established to be a potential drug target, and the same is likely for the QFR from C. jejuni. The two pathogenic species colonize mucosal surfaces causing several diseases. The possibility of studying these QFRs from these bacteria and creating more efficient drugs specifically active for this enzyme depends substantially on the availability of large amounts of high-quality protein. Further, biochemical and structural studies on QFR enzymes from e- proteobacteria species other than W. succinogenes can be valuable to enlighten new aspects or corroborate the current understanding of this class of membrane proteins.
- Biochemical, structural and functional characterization of diheme-containing succinate:quinone reductase (SQR) from Bacillus licheniformis (2010)
- Succinate:quinone oxidoreductases (SQORs) are integral membrane protein complexes, which couple the two-electron oxidation of succinate to fumarate (succinate → fumarate + 2H+ + 2e-) to the two-electron reduction of quinone to quinol (quinone + 2H+ + 2e- → quinol) as well as catalyzing the opposite reaction, the reduction of fumarate by quinol. In mitochondria and some aerobic bacteria, succinate:ubiquinone reductase, also known as complex II of the aerobic respiratory chain or as succinate dehydrogenase from the tricarboxylic acid (TCA or Krebs) cycle, catalyzes the oxidation of succinate by ubiquinone, which is mildly exergonic under standart conditions and not directly associated with energy storage in the form of a transmembrane electrochemical proton potential (Δp). Gram-positive bacteria do not contain ubiquinone but rather menaquinone, a quinone with significantly lower oxidation-reduction (“redox”) midpoint potential. In these cases, the catalyzed oxidation of succinate by quinone is endergonic under standard conditions. Consequently, these bacteria face a thermodynamic problem in supporting the catalysis of this reaction in vivo. Based on experimental evidence obtained on whole cells and purified membranes, it had previously been proposed that the SQR from Gram-positive bacteria supports this reaction at the expense of the protonmotive force, Δp. Nonetheless, it has been argued that the observed Δp dependence is not associated specifically with the activity of SQR because the occurrence of artifacts in experiments with bacterial membranes and whole cells can not be fully excluded. Clearly, definitive insight into the mechanism of catalysis of this intriguing reaction required a corresponding functional characterization of an isolated, membranebound SQR from a Gram-positive bacterium. The first aim of the present work addresses the question if the general feasibility of the energetically uphill electron transfer from succinate to menaquinone is associated specifically to a single enzyme complex, the SQR. The prerequisite to achieve this goal was stable preparation of this enzyme.
- Characterization of Aquifex aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase and its heterologous production in Escherichia coli (2013)
- This work presents a biochemical, functional and structural characterization of Aquifex aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase obtained using both a native form (AAF1FO) and a heterologous form (EAF1FO) of this enzyme. F1FO ATP synthases catalyze the synthesis of ATP from ADP and inorganic phosphate driven by ion motive forces across the membrane and therefore play a key cellular function. Because of their central role in supporting life, F1FO ATP synthases are ubiquitous and have been remarkably conserved throughout evolution. For their biological importance, F1FO ATP synthases have been extensively studied for many decades and many of them were characterized from both a functional and a structural standpoint. However, important properties of ATP synthases – specifically properties pertaining to their membrane embedded subunits – have yet to be determined and no structures are available to date for the intact enzyme complex. Therefore, F1FO ATP synthases are still a major focus of research worldwide. Our research group had previously reported an initial characterization of AAF1FO and had indicated that this enzyme presents unique features, i.e. a bent central stalk and a putatively heterodimeric peripheral stalk. Based on such a characterization, this enzyme revealed promising for structural and functional studies on ATP synthases and became the focus of this doctoral thesis. Two different lines of research were followed in this work. First, the characterization of AAF1FO was extended by bioinformatic, biochemical and enzymatic analyses. The work on AAF1FO led to the identification of a new detergent that maintains a higher homogeneity and integrity of the complex, namely the detergent trans-4-(trans-4’-propylcyclohexyl)cyclohexyl-α-D-maltoside (α-PCC). The characterization of AAF1FO in this new detergent showed that AAF1FO is a proton-dependent, not a sodium ion-dependent ATP synthase and that its ATP hydrolysis mechanism needs to be triggered and activated by high temperatures, possibly inducing a conformational switch in subunit γ. Moreover, this approach suggested that AAF1FO may present unusual features in its membrane subunits, i.e. short N-terminal segments in subunits a and c with implications for the membrane insertion mechanism of these subunits. Investigating on these unique features of A. aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase could not be done using A. aeolicus cells, because these require a harsh and dangerous environment for growth and they are inaccessible to genetic manipulations. Therefore, a second approach was pursued, in which an expression system was created to produce the enzyme in the heterologous host E. coli. This second approach was experimentally challenging, because A. aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase is a 500-kDa multimeric membrane enzyme with a complicated and still not entirely determined stoichiometry and because its encoding genes are scattered throughout A. aeolicus genome, rather than being organized in one single operon. However, an artificial operon suitable for expression was created in this work and led to the successful production of an active and fully assembled form of Aquifex aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase. Such artificial operon was created using a stepwise approach, in which we expressed and studied first individual subunits, then subcomplexes, and finally the entire F1FO ATP synthase complex. We confirmed experimentally that subunits b1 and b2 form a heterodimeric subcomplex in the E. coli membranes, which is a unique case among ATP synthases of non-photosynthetic organisms. Moreover, we determined that the b1b2 subcomplex is sufficient to recruit the soluble F1 subcomplex to the membranes, without requiring the presence of the other membrane subunits a and c. The latter subunits can be produced in our expression system only when the whole ATP synthase is expressed, but not in isolation nor in the context of smaller FO subcomplexes. These observations led us to propose a novel mechanism for the assembly of ATP synthases, in which first the F1 subcomplex attaches to the membrane via subunit b1b2, and then cring and subunits a assemble to complete the FO subcomplex. Furthermore, we could purify the heterologous ATP synthase (EAF1FO) to homogeneity by chromatography and electro-elution. Enzymatic assays showed that the purified form of EAF1FO is as active as AAF1FO. Peptide mass fingerprinting showed that EAF1FO is composed of the same subunits as AAF1FO and all soluble and membrane subunits could be identified. Finally, single-particle electron microscopy analysis revealed that the structure of EAF1FO is identical to that of AAF1FO. Therefore, the EAF1FO expression system serves as a reliable platform for investigating on properties of AAF1FO. Specifically, in this work, EAF1FO was used to study the membrane insertion mechanism of rotary subunit c. Subunits c possess different lengths and levels of hydrophobicity across species and by analyzing their N-terminal variability, four phylogenetic groups of subunits c were distinguished (groups 1 to 4). As a member of group 2, the subunit c from A. aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase is characterized by an N-terminal segment that functions as a signal peptide with SRP recognition features, a unique case for bacterial F1FO ATP synthases. By accurately designing mutants of EAF1FO, we determined that such a signal peptide is strictly necessary for membrane insertion of subunit c and we concluded that A. aeolicus subunit c inserts into E. coli membranes using a different pathway than E. coli subunit c. Such a property may be common to other ATP synthases from extremophilic organisms, which all cluster in the same phylogenetic group. In conclusion, the successful production of the fully assembled and active F1FO ATP synthase from A. aeolicus in E. coli reported in this work provides a novel genetic system to study A. aeolicus F1FO ATP synthase. To a broader extent, it will also serve in the future as a solid reference for designing strategies aimed at producing large multi-subunit complexes with complicated stoichiometry.
- Crystallization and structural characterization of protein complexes involved in the energy metabolism of Yarrowia lipolytica (2009)
- 1. Fab co-complexes of proton pumping NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) Fab fragments suitable for co-crystallization with complex I were generated using an immobilized papainbased protocol. The binding of the antibody fragments to complex I was verified using Surface Plasmon Resonance and size exclusion chromatography. The binding constants of the antibodies and their respective Fab fragments were found to be in the nanomolar range. This work presents the first report on successful crystallization of complex I (proton pumping NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase) from Yarrowia lipolytica with proteolytic Fab fragments. The quality of the crystals was significantly improved when compared to the initial experiments and the best crystals diffracted X-rays to a resolution of ~7 Å. The activity of complex I remained uninfluenced by antibody fragment binding. The initial diffraction data suggest that the complex I/Fab co-complex crystals represent a space group different to the one observed for the native protein. Ongoing experiments are aimed at further enhancements of the diffraction quality of the crystals. Providing a different space group the CI/Fab co-complexes may become a very useful approach for structure determination of the enzyme. Moreover, the bound Fab offers an additional possibility to generate phase information. The antibody-mediated crystallization represents a valuable tool in structural characterization of the NADH:oxidoreductase subcomplexes or even single subunits. 2. UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase from Yarrowia lipolytica displays affinity towards Ni2+ NTA and was first detected in a contaminated sample of complex I. Following, separation from complex I, Ugp1p was purified using anion exchange chromatography. Sequence similarity studies revealed high identity to other known pyrophosphorylases. As indicated by laser-based mass spectrometry method (LILBID) Ugp1p from Y. lipolytica builds octamers similarly to the enzyme from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The initial crystals grew as thin needles favorably in sitting drop setups. The size of the crystals was increased by employment of a micro batch technique. The improved crystals diffracted X-rays to a resolution of 3.2 Å at the synchrotron beamline. Structural characterization is under way using a molecular replacement approach based on the published structure of baker’s yeast UGPase.
- Development and application of optogenetic methods to functionally characterize synaptic transmission and neural circuits in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (2011)
- Establishment of an Escherichia coli cell-free expression system for the large scale production of selected membrane proteins (2007)
- Membrane proteins play vital role in a variety of cellular processes, such as signal transduction, transport and recognition. In turn they are involved in numerous human diseases and currently represent one of the most prevalent drug targets. A comprehensive understanding of the mechanisms mediated by membrane proteins requires information about their structures at near-atomic resolution, although structural studies of membrane proteins remain behind those of soluble proteins. A bottleneck in the study of membrane proteins resides in the difficulties that are encountered during their high-level production in cell based systems. However, many toxic effects attributed to the over production of membrane proteins are eliminated by cell-free expression, as viable host cells are no longer required. Therefore, the objective of this study was to obtain adequate amounts of selected membrane transport proteins for their structural studies using a cell-free expression system. For the establishment of the cell-free system for membrane proteins, the transporters YbgR and YiiP from Salmonella typhimurium LT2, PF0558 and PF1373 from Pyrococcus furiosus, from the cation diffusion family (CDF), BetP from Corynebacterium glutamicum from the betaine/carnitine/choline transporter (BCCT) family and Aq-2030 from Aquifex aeolicus VF5 from the monovalent cation/proton antiporter-2 (CPA2) family were selected. An Escherichia coli S-30 extract based cellfree system was established by generating the best expression constructs of the target proteins, preparing T7 RNA polymerase and an S-30 extract with high translation efficiency. The functionality of the S-30 extract was shown by the cell-free expression of correctly folded Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP). Essential factors of the cell-free system such as the Mg2+ concentration, the bacterial S-30 extract proportion in the reaction mixture and the time-course of cell-free reactions have been optimized. For the cell-free production of membrane proteins in soluble form, the possibility to supplement cell-free reactions with detergents was explored. A wide range of non-ionic or zwitterionic detergents, were found to be compatible with cell-free synthesis, while ionic detergents and non-ionic detergents at high concentrations had an inhibitory effect. Moreover, high concentrations of polyoxyethylene-alkyl-ethers (Brij) detergents were found to have enhancing effect on the production levels as well as on the solubility of cell-free produced proteins. As membrane proteins tend to misfold and aggregate in a membrane-free translation system, the possibility to supplement the cell-free reactions with inner membrane vesicles (IMVs) to obtain correctly folded target transport proteins was explored. All the target proteins were successfully produced in the batch cell-free reactions and were found to be incorporated in the IMVs. A continuous exchange cell-free (CECF) system was established, where consumable substrates (amino acids, nucleotides and energy regenerating compounds) were supplied to the cell-free reaction mixture through a dialysis membrane, which in consequence resulted in high-level production of target proteins compared to the batch system. The osmosensing and osmoregulated sodium-coupled symporter BetP from C. glutamicum was chosen for the large scale production in CECF set-up. The protein is easily produced in E. coli and is functional as assayed by its transport activity, after purification and reconstitution in liposomes. It is therefore possible to compare in-vivo and cell-free production. High-level cell-free production of BetP was achieved in CECF mode in different forms: (i) as precipitate, (ii) as soluble form in detergent, and (iii) incorporated in IMVs. Cell-free production of BetP resulted in the yield of about 0.5 mg of purified BetP from 1 ml of CECF reaction. The yield of purified BetP was increased to 1.6 fold by addition of 1% polyoxyethylene-(20)-cetyl-ether (Brij58) detergent in the reaction mixture. Moreover, the high level cell-free production of BetP (0.5 mg purified BetP/ml reaction mixture) incorporated in IMVs was shown for the first time in this work.However, it was observed that oligomerization of BetP was not efficient in the cell-free system. Factors that can promote the folding of membrane proteins such as lipids and chaperones were investigated. Addition of lipids and molecular chaperone GroE facilitated correct folding of BetP resulting in increased yield and stability of cell-free produced BetP. The results obtained indicate that most of the cell-free produced BetP exists in functional oligomeric form. The possibility of obtaining milligram amounts of BetP, a 12 trans-membrane protein from the cell-free reactions holds promise for structural and functional studies of other membrane proteins. In any case, the strategies adapted in this study should prove extremely valuable for the production of membrane proteins in the E. coli cell-free expression system.
- Expression and characterization of P-type ATPases for structural studies (2007)
- Two types of proteins transport ions across the membrane – ion channels and ion pumps. Ion pumps transport ions against their electrochemical gradient by co-transporting another ion or a substrate molecule through a concentration gradient or by coupling this process to an energy source like ATP. Those that couple ATP hydrolysis to ion transport are called ion motive ATPases and can be classified as ‘V’, ‘F’ and ‘P’ types. In this thesis, two sub-classes of P-type ATPases, PIIIA and PIB were studied. Attempts were made to over-express and crystallize the plant proton pump AHA2 (a PIIIA-ATPase). Also, the two putative copper transporting ATPases, CtrA3 (CopB-like) and CtrA2 (CopA-like) from Aquifex aeolicus (both PIB pumps) were over-expressed in E. coli and characterized. PIIIA-type pumps transport protons across the membrane and are found exclusively in plants and fungi, and probably some archaea. One of the most characterized proton pump biochemically is the A. thaliana proton pump AHA2. An 8Å projection map of this enzyme is already available (Jahn 2001). PIBATPases, also called CPX type pumps transport heavy metal ions such as Cu+, Cu2+, Zn2+, Pb2+, Cd2+, Co2+ across biological membranes and play an important role in homeostasis and biotolerance of these metals. CopA and CopB are two such proteins that transport copper across cell membrane found in many prokaryotes. CopB-like proteins are found almost exclusively in bacteria, with CPH sequence motif, while CopA-like proteins have CPC sequence motif, also found in eukaryotic copper transporters including human ATP7A and ATP7B. CopB extrudes Cu2+ across the membrane. CopA is activated by and transports Cu+ but the direction of transport is debated. Attempts were made to over-express the plant proton pump AHA2 in yeast Pichia pastoris. However, the yeast expressed only a truncated protein, which could not be used for further studies. It can be concluded that P. pastoris strain SMD1163 is not a good host for expression of AHA2. Focus was then shifted to AHA2 that has been over-expressed and purified from S. cerevisiae strain RS72. Growth and purification protocols had to be changed from published methods because of laboratory constraints and this probably had an effect on the protein produced. The protein purified from S. cerevisiae could not be crystallized reproducibly for structural studies by electron microscopy. CtrA3 was expressed in E. coli and purified using Ni2+-NTA matrix. Like CopB of A. fulgidus (Mana Capelli 2003), it was active only in the presence of Cu2+ and to some extent in Ag+. The protein was maximally active at 75°C, at pH 7 and in presence of cysteine. Lipids were essential for the activity of CtrA3. However, when the protein was purified in Cymal-6, CtrA3 could not hydrolyze ATP, even when lipids were added to the reaction mixture. For reconstitution of CtrA3 into liposomes for 2D crystallization, several lipids were tested. To screen the lipids compatible for protein incorporation, CtrA3 was dialyzed with different lipids at a high lipid-to-protein ratio of 10:1 and centrifuged by sucrose density gradient. Protein incorporated in lipids localized with liposome fraction in the gradient. Most of the CtrA3 was incorporated into DPPC with no aggregation. This lipid was used for reconstitution of CtrA3 at low LPRs, and at an LPR of 0.3-0.5, the protein formed 2D crystals. A NaCl concentration of 50mM was necessary for the formation of crystals. However, salt removal by dialysis prior to harvesting was essential for obtaining wellordered lattices of CtrA3. Addition of preservatives like trehalose and tannin or direct plunging in liquid ethane for cryo-microscopy destroyed the crystal lattice. Similar to CtrA3, the gene responsible for expression of CtrA2 was amplified from genomic DNA of A. aeolicus and expressed in E. coli and purified by Ni2+-NTA. Functional characterization of CtrA2 was done by analyzing ATP hydrolysis activity of the enzyme. Similar to CopA of A. fulgidus (Mandal 2002), CtrA2 was activated in the presence of Ag+ and to some extent, Cu+. It is possible that both the copper ATPases of A. aeolicus have different ion selectivity- CtrA3, specific for Cu2+ and CtrA2, specific for Cu+. Maximal activity of CtrA2 was also at 75°C. Cysteine was essential for activity of CtrA2, but the protein was not dependent on addition of lipids for activation. Reconstitution of CtrA2 was done similar to CtrA3 for screening of lipids for 2D crystallization. Of the lipids tested, DOPC reconstituted the protein best. However, screening at low LPRs did not yield any crystals. Even though both CtrA3 and CtrA2 are similar heavy metal transporting Ptype ATPases from the same organism and have 36% identity, they behaved completely different in their expression levels in E. coli, purification profiles, activity and reconstitution in lipids.
- First insights into the phosphorylation of Toc34 proteins (2011)
- The translocation of nuclear-encoded precursor proteins into chloroplasts is a highly ordered process involving the action of several components to regulate this molecular ensemble. Not only GTP hydrolysis and GDP release but also the phosphorylation of TOC GTPases is a widely discussed mechanism to regulate protein import. The receptor component (Toc34) and its isoform of A. thaliana (atToc33) were found to be regulated by phosphorylation. Although the phosphorylation of Toc33 is already known for several years, several questions regarding the molecular components involved in the regulation of the phosphorylation process, precisely what is the protein kinase and where this kinase is initially localized, so far remained unclear. This thesis aimed at the defining of the phosphorylation status of TOC GTPases in monomeric and/or dimeric states, the identification of the nature of Toc33-PK (protein kinase), and in the same context it aimed at gaining first insights into the physiological significance of Toc33 phosphorylation. To this end, (I) An in vitro and in vivo system for investigating of TOC GTPases Phosphorylation (in monomeric or dimeric state) was developed. Since no information is available about the phosphorylation status of the Toc159 isoforms, the second receptor of the TOC complex, it was interesting to investigate whether these isoforms undergo phosphorylation or not. The results indicated that atToc159 isoforms are able to be phosphorylated by the kinase activity in purified outer envelope membranes (OEMs) of pea, but not atToc132. Moreover, an artificial dimer of psToc34 based on the interaction of a C-terminally fused leucine zipper was not phosphorylated. This result reflected the inability of the OEM kinase to phosphorylate the dimers of TOC GTPases. Also, In vivo labeling of atToc33 was developed and occurred in a dose-dependent manner. Therefore, this results evidenced that in vitro phosphorylation of atToc33 (both endogenous wild type and recombinant expressed proteins) is not artificial labeling but represents a physiological relevance. CD (circular dichroism) measurements revealed that recombinant GTPase domain of atToc33 is preferentially phosphorylated in its folded state. Therefore, it could be suggested that folding of atToc33rec is a prerequisite for its phosphorylation and the phosphorylation event occurs as a posttranslational modification most likely after insertion of Toc33 (Toc34) into the OE of chloroplasts. Secondly, (II) Isolation and identification of Toc33-PK from OEMs of chloroplasts was performed. Four independent strategies were developed to identify the Toc33-protein kinase: UV-induced and chemically-based crosslinking, different applied chromatographic techniques, identification of PK-Toc33 interaction by means of HDN-PAGE (histidine- and deoxycholate-based native PAGE), and finally mass spectrometric approaches were performed on fractions including the potential kinase activity. UV-induced crosslinking procedure was developed and resulted in covalent bonding of nine proteins to [a-32P] ATP, while chemically-based one was not significant. The applied chromatographic and HDN-PAGE approaches, including mass spectrometry, have revealed the identification of 13 protein kinases. Of these identified kinases, phototropin2 (Phot2, AT5G58140), leucine-rich repeat PK (LRR-PK, AT4G28650.1), and receptor-like transmembrane PK (RLK, AT5G56040.2) were selected as the most promising candidates (ca. kinase type and one transmembrane helix for membrane localization). (III) The physiological significance of Toc33 phosphoryation was shown to link this process with the environmental changes (especially, the light conditions). Identification of chloroplast OE-located PKs performed by nLC-MALDI-MS/MS resulted in the detection of Phot2. Furthermore, the subcellular localization of Phot2 in OEM of chloroplasts was confirmed by immunoblotting experiments using a-Phot2 antibody. The kinase activity of Phot2 towards TOC GTPases was characterized and revealed that fused GST-KD (kinase domain) protein able to specifically phosphorylate atToc33rec, but not atToc159rec. Also, endogenous atPhot2 was upregulated and heavily detected in the ppi1-S181A plant line (where serine to alanine exchange was performed to abolish the phosphorylation of atToc33). Hence, we suggested that certain signal cascades may directly or indirectly link Toc33 receptor phosphorylation, protein levels of Phot2 (as promising PK candidate), and irradiation conditions (as an inducing signal of the subsequent phosphorylation events). Light-dependent phosphorylation of Toc33 was shown either after de-etiolation conditions or after high light intensities of blue light was performed. Therefore, phosphorylation of Toc33 might be identified as an external regulatory signal to regulate preproteins import into chloroplasts in response to environmental conditions (e.g. light changes) or as a signal of chloroplast biogenesis.