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J Biol Chem. 2004 May 21;279(21):22422-9. Epub 2004 Mar 10.

Euglena gracilis rhodoquinone:ubiquinone ratio and mitochondrial proteome differ under aerobic and anaerobic conditions.

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  • 1Institute of Botany III, University of Düsseldorf, D-40225 Düsseldorf, Germany.


Euglena gracilis cells grown under aerobic and anaerobic conditions were compared for their whole cell rhodoquinone and ubiquinone content and for major protein spots contained in isolated mitochondria as assayed by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and mass spectrometry sequencing. Anaerobically grown cells had higher rhodoquinone levels than aerobically grown cells in agreement with earlier findings indicating the need for fumarate reductase activity in anaerobic wax ester fermentation in Euglena. Microsequencing revealed components of complex III and complex IV of the respiratory chain and the E1beta subunit of pyruvate dehydrogenase to be present in mitochondria of aerobically grown cells but lacking in mitochondria from anaerobically grown cells. No proteins were identified as specific to mitochondria from anaerobically grown cells. cDNAs for the E1alpha, E2, and E3 subunits of mitochondrial pyruvate dehydrogenase were cloned and shown to be differentially expressed under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Their expression patterns differed from that of mitochondrial pyruvate:NADP(+) oxidoreductase, the N-terminal domain of which is pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase, an enzyme otherwise typical of hydrogenosomes, hydrogen-producing forms of mitochondria found among anaerobic protists. The Euglena mitochondrion is thus a long sought intermediate that unites biochemical properties of aerobic and anaerobic mitochondria and hydrogenosomes because it contains both pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase and rhodoquinone typical of hydrogenosomes and anaerobic mitochondria as well as pyruvate dehydrogenase and ubiquinone typical of aerobic mitochondria. Our data show that under aerobic conditions Euglena mitochondria are prepared for anaerobic function and furthermore suggest that the ancestor of mitochondria was a facultative anaerobe, segments of whose physiology have been preserved in the Euglena lineage.

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