Open Access Open Badges Research article

An in silico approach combined with in vivo experiments enables the identification of a new protein whose overexpression can compensate for specific respiratory defects in Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Annie Glatigny1*, Lise Mathieu2, Christopher J Herbert1, Geneviève Dujardin1, Brigitte Meunier1 and Marie-Hélène Mucchielli-Giorgi13

Author Affiliations

1 CNRS, Centre de Génétique Moléculaire, UPR3404, FRC3115, 91198 Gif-sur-Yvette, France

2 UVSQ, 55 avenue de Paris, 78035 Versailles, France

3 Université Pierre et Marie Curie- Paris 6, 75005 Paris, France

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BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5:173  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-173

Published: 25 October 2011



The mitochondrial inner membrane contains five large complexes that are essential for oxidative phosphorylation. Although the structure and the catalytic mechanisms of the respiratory complexes have been progressively established, their biogenesis is far from being fully understood. Very few complex III assembly factors have been identified so far. It is probable that more factors are needed for the assembly of a functional complex, but that the genetic approaches used to date have not been able to identify them. We have developed a systems biology approach to identify new factors controlling complex III biogenesis.


We collected all the physical protein-protein interactions (PPI) involving the core subunits, the supernumerary subunits and the assembly factors of complex III and used Cytoscape 2.6.3 and its plugins to construct a network. It was then divided into overlapping and highly interconnected sub-graphs with clusterONE. One sub-graph contained the core and the supernumerary subunits of complex III, it also contained some subunits of complex IV and proteins participating in the assembly of complex IV. This sub-graph was then split with another algorithm into two sub-graphs. The subtraction of these two sub-graphs from the previous sub-graph allowed us to identify a protein of unknown function Usb1p/Ylr132p that interacts with the complex III subunits Qcr2p and Cor1p. We then used genetic and cell biology approaches to investigate the function of Usb1p. Preliminary results indicated that Usb1p is an essential protein with a dual localization in the nucleus and in the mitochondria, and that the over-expression of this protein can compensate for defects in the biogenesis of the respiratory complexes.


Our systems biology approach has highlighted the multiple associations between subunits and assembly factors of complexes III and IV during their biogenesis. In addition, this approach has allowed the identification of a new factor, Usb1p, involved in the biogenesis of respiratory complexes, which could not have been found using classical genetic screens looking for respiratory deficient mutants. Thus, this systems biology approach appears to be a fruitful new way to study the biogenesis of mitochondrial multi-subunit complexes.