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Proteins. 2010 Sep;78(12):2691-8. doi: 10.1002/prot.22783.

Similarity of cytochrome c oxidases in different organisms.

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Department of Chemistry, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.


Most of biological oxygen reduction is catalyzed by the heme-copper oxygen reductases. These enzymes are redox-driven proton pumps that take part in generating the proton gradient in both prokaryotes and mitochondria that drives synthesis of ATP. The enzymes have been divided into three evolutionarily-related groups: the A-, B-, and C-families. Recent comparative studies suggest that all oxygen reductases perform the same chemistry for oxygen reduction and comprise the same essential elements of the proton pumping mechanism, such as the proton loading and kinetic gating sites, which, however, appear to be different in different families. All species of the A-family, however, demonstrate remarkable similarity of the central processing unit of the enzyme, as revealed by their recent crystal structures. Here we demonstrate that cytochrome c oxidases (CcO) of such diverse organisms as a mammal (bovine heart mitochondrial CcO), photosynthetic bacteria (Rhodobacter sphaeroides CcO), and soil bacteria (Paracoccus denitrificans CcO) are not only structurally similar, but almost identical in microscopic electrostatics and thermodynamics properties of their key amino-acids. By using pK(a) calculations of some of the key residues of the catalytic site, D- and K- proton input, and putative proton output channels of these three different enzymes, we demonstrate that the microscopic properties of key residues are almost identical, which strongly suggests the same mechanism in these species. The quantitative precision with which the microscopic physical properties of these enzymes have remained constant despite different evolutionary routes undertaken is striking.

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