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J Mol Biol. 1991 Oct 5;221(3):1027-43.

Electron microscopic analysis of the peripheral and membrane parts of mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase (complex I).

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Universität Düsseldorf, Institut für Biochemie, Germany.


Two related forms of the respiratory chain NADH dehydrogenase (NADH:ubiquinone reductase or complex I) are synthesized in the mitochondria of Neurospora crassa. Normally growing cells make a large form that consists of 25 subunits encoded by nuclear DNA and six to seven subunits encoded by mitochondrial DNA. Cells grown in the presence of chloramphenicol, however, make a smaller form comprising only 13 subunits, all encoded by nuclear DNA. When the large enzyme is dissected by chaotropic agents (such as NaBr), all those subunits of the large form that are missing in the small form can be isolated as a distinct, so-called hydrophobic fragment. The small enzyme and the hydrophobic fragment make up, with regard to their redox groups, subunit composition and function, two complementary parts of the large-form NADH dehydrogenase. Averaging of electron microscope images of single particles of the large enzyme was carried out, revealing an unusual L-shaped structure with two domains or "arms" arranged at right angles. The hydrophobic fragment obtained by the NaBr treatment corresponds in size and appearance to one of these arms. A three-dimensional reconstruction from images of negatively stained membrane crystals of the large-form NADH dehydrogenase shows a peripheral domain, protruding from the membrane, with weak unresolved density within the membrane. This peripheral domain was removed by washing the crystals in situ with 2 M-NaBr, exposing a large membrane-buried domain, which was reconstructed in three dimensions. A three-dimensional reconstruction of the small enzyme from negatively stained membrane crystals, also described here, shows only a peripheral domain. These results suggest that the membrane protruding arm of the large form corresponds to the small enzyme, whereas the arm lying within the membrane can be identified as the hydrophobic fragment. The two parts of NADH dehydrogenase that can be defined by the separate genetic origin of (most of) their subunits, their independent assembly, and their distinct contributions to the electron pathway can thus be assigned to the two arms of the L-shaped complex I.

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