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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2010 Jun-Jul;1797(6-7):710-23. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2010.02.020. Epub 2010 Feb 23.

Variable proton-pumping stoichiometry in structural variants of cytochrome c oxidase.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, The Arrhenius Laboratories for Natural Sciences, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.


Cytochrome c oxidase is a multisubunit membrane-bound enzyme, which catalyzes oxidation of four molecules of cytochrome c2+ and reduction of molecular oxygen to water. The electrons are taken from one side of the membrane while the protons are taken from the other side. This topographical arrangement results in a charge separation that is equivalent to moving one positive charge across the membrane for each electron transferred to O2. In this reaction part of the free energy available from O2 reduction is conserved in the form of an electrochemical proton gradient. In addition, part of the free energy is used to pump on average one proton across the membrane per electron transferred to O2. Our understanding of the molecular design of the machinery that couples O2 reduction to proton pumping in oxidases has greatly benefited from studies of so called "uncoupled" structural variants of the oxidases. In these uncoupled oxidases the catalytic O2-reduction reaction may display the same rates as in the wild-type CytcO, yet the electron/proton transfer to O2 is not linked to proton pumping. One striking feature of all uncoupled variants studied to date is that the (apparent) pKa of a Glu residue, located deeply within a proton pathway, is either increased or decreased (from 9.4 in the wild-type oxidase). The altered pKa presumably reflects changes in the local structural environment of the residue and because the Glu residue is found near the catalytic site as well as near a putative exit pathway for pumped protons these changes are presumably important for controlling the rates and trajectories of the proton transfer. In this paper we summarize data obtained from studies of uncoupled structural oxidase variants and present a hypothesis that in quantitative terms offers a link between structural changes, modulation of the apparent pKa and uncoupling of proton pumping from O2 reduction.

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