Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 May 16;103(20):7607-12. Epub 2006 May 8.

The mechanism of superoxide production by NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) from bovine heart mitochondria.

Author information

Medical Research Council Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Wellcome Trust/Medical Research Council Building, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2XY, United Kingdom.


NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase (complex I) is a major source of reactive oxygen species in mitochondria and a significant contributor to cellular oxidative stress. Here, we describe the kinetic and molecular mechanism of superoxide production by complex I isolated from bovine heart mitochondria and confirm that it produces predominantly superoxide, not hydrogen peroxide. Redox titrations and electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy exclude the iron-sulfur clusters and flavin radical as the source of superoxide, and, in the absence of a proton motive force, superoxide formation is not enhanced during turnover. Therefore, superoxide is formed by the transfer of one electron from fully reduced flavin to O2. The resulting flavin radical is unstable, so the remaining electron is probably redistributed to the iron-sulfur centers. The rate of superoxide production is determined by a bimolecular reaction between O2 and reduced flavin in an empty active site. The proportion of the flavin that is thus competent for reaction is set by a preequilibrium, determined by the dissociation constants of NADH and NAD+, and the reduction potentials of the flavin and NAD+. Consequently, the ratio and concentrations of NADH and NAD+ determine the rate of superoxide formation. This result clearly links our mechanism for the isolated enzyme to studies on intact mitochondria, in which superoxide production is enhanced when the NAD+ pool is reduced. Therefore, our mechanism forms a foundation for formulating causative connections between complex I defects and pathological effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center