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J Biol Chem. 1990 Jul 5;265(19):11185-92.

The sequence of the cyo operon indicates substantial structural similarities between the cytochrome o ubiquinol oxidase of Escherichia coli and the aa3-type family of cytochrome c oxidases.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801.


The cytochrome o complex is one of two ubiquinol oxidases in the aerobic respiratory system of Escherichia coli. This enzyme catalyzes the two-electron oxidation of ubiquinol-8 which is located in the cytoplasmic membrane, and the four-electron reduction of molecular oxygen to water. The purified oxidase contains at least four subunits by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis analysis and has been shown to couple electron flux to the generation of a proton motive force across the membrane. In this paper, the DNA sequence of the cyo operon, containing the structural genes for the oxidase, is reported. This operon is shown to encode five open reading frames, cyoABCDE. The gene products of three of these, cyoA, cyoB, and cyoC, are clearly related to subunits II, I, and III, respectively, of the eukaryotic and prokaryotic aa3-type cytochrome c oxidases. This family of cytochrome c oxidases contain heme a and copper as prosthetic groups, whereas the E. coli enzyme contains heme b (protoheme IX) and copper. The most striking sequence similarities relate the large subunits (I) of both the E. coli quinol oxidase and the cytochrome c oxidases. It is likely that the sequence similarities reflect a common molecular architecture of the two heme binding sites and of a copper binding site in these enzymes. In addition, the cyoE open reading frame is closely related to a gene denoted ORF1 from Paracoccus dentrificans which is located in between the genes encoding subunits II and III of the cytochrome c oxidase of this organism. The function of the ORF1 gene product is not known. These sequence relationships define a superfamily of membrane-bound respiratory oxidases which share structural features but which have different functions. The E. coli cytochrome o complex oxidizes ubiquinol but has no ability to catalyze the oxidation of reduced cytochrome c. Nevertheless, it is clear that the E. coli oxidase and the aa3-type cytochrome c oxidases must have very similar structures, at least in the vicinity of the catalytic centers, and they are very likely to have similar mechanisms for bioenergetic coupling (proton pumping).

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