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IUBMB Life. 2008 Sep;60(9):557-68. doi: 10.1002/iub.86.

Cytochrome c oxidase biogenesis: new levels of regulation.

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Department of Neurology, The John T. MacDonald Foundation Center for Medical Genetics, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA.


Eukaryotic cytochrome c oxidase (COX), the last enzyme of the mitochondrial respiratory chain, is a multimeric enzyme of dual genetic origin, whose assembly is a complicated and highly regulated process. COX displays a concerted accumulation of its constitutive subunits. Data obtained from studies performed with yeast mutants indicate that most catalytic core unassembled subunits are posttranslationally degraded. Recent data obtained in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae have revealed another contribution to the stoichiometric accumulation of subunits during COX biogenesis targeting subunit 1 or Cox1p. Cox1p is a mitochondrially encoded catalytic subunit of COX which acts as a seed around which the full complex is assembled. A regulatory mechanism exists by which Cox1p synthesis is controlled by the availability of its assembly partners. The unique properties of this regulatory mechanism offer a means to catalyze multiple-subunit assembly. New levels of COX biogenesis regulation have been recently proposed. For example, COX assembly and stability of the fully assembled enzyme depend on the presence in the mitochondrial compartments of two partners of the oxidative phosphorylation system, the mobile electron carrier cytochrome c and the mitochondrial ATPase. The different mechanisms of regulation of COX assembly are reviewed and discussed.

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