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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2006 Sep-Oct;1757(9-10):1096-109. Epub 2006 May 5.

Electron tunneling chains of mitochondria.

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The Johnson Research Foundation, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of Pennsylvania, 1005, Stellar-Chance Laboratories, 422, Curie Boulevard, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6059, USA.


The single, simple concept that natural selection adjusts distances between redox cofactors goes a long way towards encompassing natural electron transfer protein design. Distances are short or long as required to direct or insulate promiscuously tunneling single electrons. Along a chain, distances are usually 14 A or less. Shorter distances are needed to allow climbing of added energetic barriers at paired-electron catalytic centers in which substrate and the required number of cofactors form a compact cluster. When there is a short-circuit danger, distances between shorting centers are relatively long. Distances much longer than 14 A will support only very slow electron tunneling, but could act as high impedance signals useful in regulation. Tunneling simulations of the respiratory complexes provide clear illustrations of this simple engineering.

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