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Eur J Biochem. 1992 Jun 15;206(3):775-81.

The mechanism of the increase in mitochondrial proton permeability induced by thyroid hormones.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, England.


Three possible mechanisms by which different levels of thyroid hormones in rats might cause the observed sevenfold change in the apparent proton permeability of the inner membrane of isolated liver mitochondria were investigated. (a) Cytochrome c oxidase was isolated from the livers of hypothyroid, euthyroid and hyperthyroid rats and incorporated into liposomes made with soya phospholipids. There was no difference between the proton current/voltage curves of the three types of vesicles. The hormonal effects, therefore, were not an inherent property of the enzymes, and were not due to different coupling of electron flow through the enzyme to proton transport. (b) The surface area of the mitochondrial inner membrane was shown by three different assays to be greater by a factor of between two and three in mitochondria from hyperthyroid animals than in mitochondria from hypothyroid animals; euthyroid controls were intermediate. This difference in surface area of the inner membrane explains less than half of the difference in apparent proton permeability. (c) The proton permeability of liposomes prepared from phospholipids extracted from mitochondrial inner membranes of hyperthyroid rats was three times greater than the proton permeability of those from hypothyroid rats; euthyroid controls were intermediate. This suggests, first, that the proton permeability of the phospholipid bilayer is an important component of the proton permeability in intact mitochondria and, second, thyroid hormone-induced changes in the bilayer are a major part of the mechanism of increased proton permeability. Such changes may be due to the known differences in fatty acid composition of mitochondrial phospholipids in different thyroid states. Thus we have identified two mechanisms by which thyroid hormone levels in rats change proton flux/mass protein in isolated liver mitochondria: a change in the area of the inner membrane/mass protein and a change in the intrinsic permeability of the phospholipid bilayer.

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