A histidine-rich motif mediates mitochondrial localization of ZnT2 to modulate mitochondrial function

Young Ah Seo, Veronica Lopez, Shannon L. Kelleher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Female reproductive tissues such as mammary glands, ovaries, uterus, and placenta are phenotypically dynamic, requiring tight integration of bioenergetic and apoptotic mechanisms. Mitochondrial zinc (Zn) pools have emerged as a central player in regulating bioenergetics and apoptosis. Zn must first be imported into mitochondria to modulate mitochondrion-specific functions; however, mitochondrial Zn import mechanisms have not been identified. Here we documented that the Zn transporter ZnT2 is associated with the inner mitochondrial membrane and acts as an auxiliary Zn importer into mitochondria in mammary cells. We found that attenuation of ZnT2 expression significantly reduced mitochondrial Zn uptake and total mitochondrial Zn pools. Moreover, expression of a ZnT2-hemagglutinin (HA) fusion protein was localized to mitochondria and significantly increased Zn uptake and mitochondrial Zn pools, directly implicating ZnT2 in Zn import into mitochondria. Confocal microscopy of truncated and point mutants of ZnT2-green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion proteins revealed a histidine-rich motif (51HHXH54) in the NH2 terminus that is important for mitochondrial targeting of ZnT2. More importantly, the expansion of mitochondrial Zn pools by ZnT2 overexpression significantly reduced ATP biogenesis and mitochondrial oxidation concurrent with increased apoptosis, suggesting a functional role for ZnT2-mediated Zn import into mitochondria. These results identify the first Zn transporter directly associated with mitochondria and suggest that unique secretory tissues such as the mammary gland require novel mechanisms to modulate mitochondrion-specific functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C1479-C1489
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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