Experimental approaches to study mitochondrial localization and function of a nuclear cell cycle kinase, Cdk1

Demet Candas, Lili Qin, Ming Fan, Jian-Jian Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although mitochondria possess their own transcriptional machinery, merely 1% of mitochondrial proteins are synthesized inside the organelle. The nuclear-encoded proteins are transported into mitochondria guided by their mitochondria targeting sequences (MTS); however, a majority of mitochondrial localized proteins lack an identifiable MTS. Nevertheless, the fact that MTS can instruct proteins to go into the mitochondria provides a valuable tool for studying mitochondrial functions of normally nuclear and/or cytoplasmic proteins. We have recently identified the cell cycle kinase CyclinB1/Cdk1 complex in the mitochondria. To specifically study the mitochondrial functions of this complex, mitochondrial overexpression and knock-down of this complex without interfering with its nuclear or cytoplasmic functions were essential. By tagging CyclinB1/Cdk1 with MTS, we were able to achieve mitochondrial overexpression of this complex to study its mitochondrial targets as well as functions. Via tagging dominant-negative Cdk1 with MTS, inhibition of Cdk1 activity was accomplished particularly in the mitochondria. Potential mitochondrial targets of CyclinB1/Cdk1 complex were identified using a gel-based proteomics approach. Unlike traditional 2D gel analysis, we employed 2-dimensional difference gel electrophoresis (2D-DIGE) technology followed by phosphoprotein staining to fluorescently label differentially phosphorylated proteins in mitochondrial Cdk1 expressing cells. Identification of phosphoprotein spots that were altered in wild type versus dominant negative Cdk1 bearing mitochondria revealed the identity of mitochondrial targets of Cdk1. Finally, to determine the effect of CyclinB1/ Cdk1 mitochondrial localization in cell cycle progression, a cell proliferation assay using a synthetic thymidine analogue EdU (5-ethynyl-2′- deoxyuridine) was used to monitor the cells as they go through the cell cycle and replicate their DNA. Altogether, we demonstrated a variety of approaches available to study mitochondrial localization and activity of a cell cycle kinase. These are advanced, yet easy to follow methods that will be beneficial to many cell biology researchers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere53417
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number108
StatePublished - Feb 25 2016


  • Cdk1
  • Cell cycle
  • Complex I
  • Issue 108
  • Mitochondria targeting sequence
  • Mitochondrial localization
  • Mitoplasts
  • Molecular biology
  • Sub-mitochondrial localization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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