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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2008 May;1777(5):397-403. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2008.03.005. Epub 2008 Mar 18.

Diphenyleneiodonium acutely inhibits reactive oxygen species production by mitochondrial complex I during reverse, but not forward electron transport.

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Medical Research Council, Dunn Human Nutrition Unit, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 0XY, UK. <>


We investigated the effects of diphenyleneiodonium (DPI) on superoxide production by complex I in mitochondria isolated from rat skeletal muscle. Superoxide production was measured indirectly as hydrogen peroxide production. In a conventional medium containing chloride, DPI strongly inhibited superoxide production by complex I driven by reverse electron transport from succinate. In principle, this inhibition could be explained by an observed decrease in the mitochondrial pH gradient caused by the known chloride-hydroxide antiport activity of DPI. In a medium containing gluconate instead of chloride, DPI did not affect the pH gradient. In this gluconate medium, DPI still inhibited superoxide production driven by reverse electron transport, showing that the inhibition of superoxide production was not dependent on changes in the pH gradient. It had no effect on superoxide production during forward electron transport from NAD-linked substrates in the presence of rotenone (to maximise superoxide production from the flavin of complex I) or antimycin (to maximise superoxide production from complex III), suggesting that the effects of DPI were not through inhibition of the flavin. We conclude that DPI has the novel and potentially very useful ability to prevent superoxide production from the site in complex I that is active during reverse electron transport, without affecting superoxide production during forward electron transport.

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