During adaptive radiation, mitochondria have co-evolved with their hosts, leading to gain or loss of subunits and assembly factors of respiratory complexes. Plant mitochondrial complex I harbors ∼40 nuclear- and 9 mitochondrial-encoded subunits, and is formed by stepwise assembly during which different intermediates are integrated via various assembly factors. In mammals, the mitochondrial complex I intermediate assembly (MCIA) complex is required for building the membrane arm module. However, plants have lost almost all of the MCIA complex components, giving rise to the hypothesis that plants follow an ancestral pathway to assemble the membrane arm subunits. Here, we characterize a maize crumpled seed mutant, crk1, and reveal by map-based cloning that CRK1 encodes an ortholog of human complex I assembly factor 1, zNDUFAF1, the only evolutionarily conserved MCIA subunit in plants. zNDUFAF1 is localized in the mitochondria and accumulates in two intermediate complexes that contain complex I membrane arm subunits. Disruption of zNDUFAF1 results in severe defects in complex I assembly and activity, a cellular bioenergetic shift to aerobic glycolysis, and mitochondrial vacuolation. Moreover, we found that zNDUFAF1, the putative mitochondrial import inner membrane translocase ZmTIM17-1, and the isovaleryl-coenzyme A dehydrogenase ZmIVD1 interact each other, and could be co-precipitated from the mitochondria and co-migrate in the same assembly intermediates. Knockout of either ZmTIM17-1 or ZmIVD1 could lead to the significantly reduced complex I stability and activity as well as defective seeds. These results suggest that zNDUFAF1, ZmTIM17-1 and ZmIVD1 probably form an MCIA-like complex that is essential for the biogenesis of mitochondrial complex I and seed development in maize. Our findings also imply that plants and mammals recruit MCIA subunits independently for mitochondrial complex I assembly, highlighting the importance of parallel evolution in mitochondria adaptation to their hosts.