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J Biol Chem. 1996 Jan 5;271(1):521-7.

Two hydrophobic subunits are essential for the heme b ligation and functional assembly of complex II (succinate-ubiquinone oxidoreductase) from Escherichia coli.

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  • 1Department of Parasitology, University of Tokyo, Japan.


Complex II (succinate-ubiquinone oxidoreductase) from Escherichia coli is composed of four nonidentical subunits encoded by the sdhCDAB operon. Gene products of sdhC and sdhD are small hydrophobic subunits that anchor the hydrophilic catalytic subunits (flavoprotein and iron-sulfur protein) to the cytoplasmic membrane and are believed to be the components of cytochrome b556 in E. coli complex II. In the present study, to elucidate the role of two hydrophobic subunits in the heme b ligation and functional assembly of complex II, plasmids carrying portions of the sdh gene were constructed and introduced into E. coli MK3, which lacks succinate dehydrogenase and fumarate reductase activities. The expression of polypeptides with molecular masses of about 19 and 17 kDa was observed when sdhC and sdhD were introduced into MK3, respectively, indicating that sdhC encodes the large subunit (cybL) and sdhD the small subunit (cybS) of cytochrome b556. An increase in cytochrome b content was found in the membrane when sdhD was introduced, while the cytochrome b content did not change when sdhC was introduced. However, the cytochrome b expressed by the plasmid carrying sdhD differed from cytochrome b556 in its CO reactivity and red shift of the alpha absorption peak to 557.5 nm at 77 K. Neither hydrophobic subunit was able to bind the catalytic portion to the membrane, and only succinate dehydrogenase activity, not succinate-ubiquinone oxidoreductase activity, was found in the cytoplasmic fractions of the cells. In contrast, significantly higher amounts of cytochrome b556 were expressed in the membrane when sdhC and sdhD genes were both present, and the catalytic portion was found to be localized in the membrane with succinate-ubiquitnone oxidoreductase and succinate oxidase activities. These results strongly suggest that both hydrophobic subunits are required for heme insertion into cytochrome b556 and are essential for the functional assembly of E. coli complex II in the membrane. Accumulation of the catalytic portion in the cytoplasm was found when sdhCDAB was introduced into a heme synthesis mutant, suggesting the importance of heme in the assembly of E. coli complex II.

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