Mitochondria fulfill central functions in cellular energetics, metabolism, and signaling.The outer membrane translocator complex (the TOM complex) imports most mitochondrial proteins, but its architecture is unknown. Using a cross-linking approach, we mapped the active translocator down to single amino acid residues, revealing different transport paths for preproteins through the Tom40 channel. An N-terminal segment of Tom40 passes from the cytosol through the channel to recruit chaperones from the intermembrane space that guide the transfer of hydrophobic preproteins. The translocator contains three Tom40 β-barrel channels sandwiched between a central α-helical Tom22 receptor cluster and external regulatory Tom proteins. The preprotein-translocating trimeric complex exchanges with a dimeric isoform to assemble new TOM complexes. Dynamic coupling of a-helical receptors, β-barrel channels, and chaperones generates a versatile machinery that transports about 1000 different proteins.
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