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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2009 Oct;41(10):1750-1772.

Structural and functional organization of the mitochondrial respiratory chain: a dynamic super-assembly.

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Dipartimento di Biochimica G. Moruzzi, Università di Bologna, Via Irnerio 48, 40126 Bologna, Italy.


The structural organization of the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) system has received large attention in the past and most investigations led to the conclusion that the respiratory enzymatic complexes are randomly dispersed in the lipid bilayer of the inner membrane and functionally connected by fast diffusion of smaller redox components, Coenzyme Q and cytochrome c. More recent investigations by native gel electrophoresis, however, have shown the existence of supramolecular associations of the respiratory complexes, confirmed by electron microscopy analysis and single particle image processing. Flux control analysis has demonstrated that Complexes I and III in mammalian mitochondria and Complexes I, III, and IV in plant mitochondria kinetically behave as single units with control coefficients approaching unity for each single component, suggesting the existence of substrate channelling within the supercomplexes. The reasons why the presence of substrate channelling for Coenzyme Q and cytochrome c was overlooked in the past are analytically discussed. The review also discusses the forces and the conditions responsible for the formation of the supramolecular units. The function of the supercomplexes appears not to be restricted to kinetic advantages in electron transfer: we discuss evidence on their role in the stability and assembly of the individual complexes and in preventing excess oxygen radical formation. Finally, there is increasing evidence that disruption of the supercomplex organization leads to functional derangements responsible for pathological changes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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