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Eur J Biochem. 1992 Oct 1;209(1):207-16.

The mitochondrion in bloodstream forms of Trypanosoma brucei is energized by the electrogenic pumping of protons catalysed by the F1F0-ATPase.

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Department of Biochemistry, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.


Bloodstream forms of Trypanosoma brucei were found to maintain a significant membrane potential across their mitochondrial inner membrane (delta psi m) in addition to a plasma membrane potential (delta psi p). Significantly, the delta psi m was selectively abolished by low concentrations of specific inhibitors of the F1F0-ATPase, such as oligomycin, whereas inhibition of mitochondrial respiration with salicylhydroxamic acid was without effect. Thus, the mitochondrial membrane potential is generated and maintained exclusively by the electrogenic translocation of H+, catalysed by the mitochondrial F1F0-ATPase at the expense of ATP rather than by the mitochondrial electron-transport chain present in T. brucei. Consequently, bloodstream forms of T. brucei cannot engage in oxidative phosphorylation. The mitochondrial membrane potential generated by the mitochondrial F1F0-ATPase in intact trypanosomes was calculated after solving the two-compartment problem for the uptake of the lipophilic cation, methyltriphenylphosphonium (MePh3P+) and was shown to have a value of approximately 150 mV. When the value for the delta psi m is combined with that for the mitochondrial pH gradient (Nolan and Voorheis, 1990), the mitochondrial proton-motive force was calculated to be greater than 190 mV. It seems likely that this mitochondrial proton-motive force serves a role in the directional transport of ions and metabolites across the promitochondrial inner membrane during the bloodstream stage of the life cycle, as well as promoting the import of nuclear-encoded protein into the promitochondrion during the transformation of bloodstream forms into the next stage of the life cycle of T. brucei.

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