Diego D Brancaccio, Angelo A Gallo, Maciej M Mikolajczyk, Kairit K Zovo, Peep P Palumaa, Ettore E Novellino, Mario M Piccioli, Simone S Ciofi-Baffoni, Lucia L Banci


The generation of [4Fe-4S] clusters in mitochondria critically depends, in both yeast and human cells, on two A-type ISC proteins (in mammals named ISCA1 and ISCA2), which perform a nonredundant functional role forming in vivo a heterocomplex. The molecular function of ISCA1 and ISCA2 proteins, i.e., how these proteins help in generating [4Fe-4S] clusters, is still unknown. In this work we have structurally characterized the Fe/S cluster binding properties of human ISCA2 and investigated in vitro whether and how a [4Fe-4S] cluster is assembled when human ISCA1 and ISCA2 interact with the physiological [2Fe-2S](2+) cluster-donor human GRX5. We found that (i) ISCA2 binds either [2Fe-2S] or [4Fe-4S] cluster in a dimeric state, and (ii) two molecules of [2Fe-2S](2+) GRX5 donate their cluster to a heterodimeric ISCA1/ISCA2 complex. This complex acts as an "assembler" of [4Fe-4S] clusters; i.e., the two GRX5-donated [2Fe-2S](2+) clusters generate a [4Fe-4S](2+) cluster. The formation of the same [4Fe-4S](2+) cluster-bound heterodimeric species is also observed by having first one [2Fe-2S](2+) cluster transferred from GRX5 to each individual ISCA1 and ISCA2 proteins to form [2Fe-2S](2+) ISCA2 and [2Fe-2S](2+) ISCA1, and then mixing them together. These findings imply that such heterodimeric complex is the functional unit in mitochondria receiving [2Fe-2S] clusters from hGRX5 and assembling [4Fe-4S] clusters before their transfer to the final target apo proteins.