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J Biol Chem. 2009 Jun 12;284(24):16236-45. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M809512200. Epub 2009 Apr 14.

Oxygen sensitivity of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species generation depends on metabolic conditions.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA.


The mitochondrial generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) plays a central role in many cell signaling pathways, but debate still surrounds its regulation by factors, such as substrate availability, [O2] and metabolic state. Previously, we showed that in isolated mitochondria respiring on succinate, ROS generation was a hyperbolic function of [O2]. In the current study, we used a wide variety of substrates and inhibitors to probe the O2 sensitivity of mitochondrial ROS generation under different metabolic conditions. From such data, the apparent Km for O2 of putative ROS-generating sites within mitochondria was estimated as follows: 0.2, 0.9, 2.0, and 5.0 microM O2 for the complex I flavin site, complex I electron backflow, complex III QO site, and electron transfer flavoprotein quinone oxidoreductase of beta-oxidation, respectively. Differential effects of respiratory inhibitors on ROS generation were also observed at varying [O2]. Based on these data, we hypothesize that at physiological [O2], complex I is a significant source of ROS, whereas the electron transfer flavoprotein quinone oxidoreductase may only contribute to ROS generation at very high [O2]. Furthermore, we suggest that previous discrepancies in the assignment of effects of inhibitors on ROS may be due to differences in experimental [O2]. Finally, the data set (see supplemental material) may be useful in the mathematical modeling of mitochondrial metabolism.

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