Immunogold localization of mitochondrial aspartate aminotransferase in mitochondria and on the cell surface in normal rat tissues.
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Mitochondrial aspartate aminotransferase (mAspAT) (E.C. 220.127.116.11), an important enzyme in amino acid metabolism, is identical to a fatty acid-binding protein (FABPpm) isolated from plasma membranes of several cell types. Employing a monospecific polyclonal antibody to rat mAspAT, we have used immunogold electron microscopy to study the subcellular distribution of mAspAT in various mammalian tissues. Immunogold labeling of rat tissue sections embedded in LR Gold resin showed strong labeling of mitochondria in all tissues examined (viz. liver, pancreas, pituitary, spleen, heart, kidney, submandibular gland). In addition, strong and specific labeling was also observed at a number of non-mitochondrial sites including various locations in kidney, such as on cell surface in distal tubules and cortical collecting ducts, in condensing vacuoles, along cell boundaries between adjoining cells, and in endothelial cells lining capillaries in the glomerulus. Surface labeling due to mAspAT was also seen in arteriolar endothelial cells and in lymphocytes. These findings support the previous identification of mAspAT as both a mitochondrial enzyme and a plasma membrane protein. It is suggested that in accordance with its established role in other cells and tissues, the surface-located mAspAT in kidney and endothelial cells is involved in the fatty acid transport process. The dual-localization of mAspAT, as well as a large number of other mitochondrial proteins (viz. Hsp60, Hsp10, Cytochrome c, TRAP-1 and P32 (gC1q-R)) in recent studies, within both mitochondria and at various specific extramitochondrial sites raises fundamental questions about the role of mitochondria in cell structure and function, and about the mechanisms that exist in normal cells for protein translocation from mitochondria to other compartments. These results have implications for the role of mitochondria in apoptosis and different diseases.
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