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Biochem J. 1996 Dec 15;320 ( Pt 3):837-45.

The effect of chloroform on mitochondrial energy transduction.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, U.K.


The effect of chloroform on mitochondrial respiration with succinate was investigated by applying the method of Brand, Chien and Diolez [(1994) Biochem. J. 297, 27-29] to examine whether chloroform causes redox slip (fewer protons pumped per electron transferred) during mitochondrial electron transport. N,N,N',N'-Tetramethyl-p-phenylenediamine (TMPD), which lowers H+/O (the number of protons pumped to the external medium by the electron transport complexes per oxygen atom consumed) by altering the electron flow pathway, was investigated for comparison. Non-phosphorylating mitochondria that had been treated with 350 microM TMPD or 30 mM chloroform were titrated with malonate in the presence of submaximal concentrations of the uncoupler carbonyl cyanide m-chlorophenylhydrazone (CCCP). Linear relations between CCCP-induced extra respiration and protonmotive force were obtained. These results showed that there was no measurable protonmotive force-dependent or rate-dependent slip in mitochondria treated with either TMPD or chloroform. However, both TMPD and chloroform seemed to decrease H+/O in a manner independent of protonmotive force and rate. The relationship between non-phosphorylating respiration and protonmotive force was simulated in mitochondria of which 25% of the total population were assumed to have been broken. The simulation showed that the apparent decrease in H+/O on the addition of TMPD or chloroform to mitochondria could be in principle accounted for by breakage. Assays of mitochondrial breakage (ATP hydrolysis in the presence of atractyloside and oxidation of exogenous NADH) showed that chloroform broke mitochondria but TMPD did not. We conclude that chloroform changes the measured H+/O as an artifact by causing mitochondrial breakage and does not cause measurable redox slip, whereas TMPD genuinely lowers H+/O.

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