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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 May;1817(5):780-91. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2012.02.010. Epub 2012 Feb 16.

An investigation into a cardiolipin acyl chain insertion site in cytochrome c.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, UK.


Mitochondrial cytochrome c associates with the phosphoplipid cardiolipin (CL) through a combination of electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions. The latter occurs by insertion into cytochrome c of an acyl chain, resulting in the dissociation of the axial Met-80 heme-iron ligand. The resulting five coordinate cytochrome c/CL complex has peroxidatic properties leading to peroxidation of CL and dissociation of the complex. These events are considered to be pre-apoptotic and culminate with release of cytochrome c from the mitochondria into the cytoplasm. Two distinct surface regions on cytochrome c have been suggested to mediate CL acyl chain insertion and this study has probed one of these regions. We have constructed a series of alanine mutants aimed at disrupting a surface cleft formed between residues 67-71 and 82-85. The physicochemical properties, peroxidase activity, CL binding, and kinetics of carbon monoxide (CO) binding to the ferrous cytochrome c/CL complex have been assessed for the individual mutants. Our findings reveal that the majority of mutants are capable of binding CL in the same apparent stoichiometry as the wild-type protein, with the extent to which the Met-80 ligand is bound in the ferrous cytochrome c/CL complex being mutant specific at neutral pH. Mutation of the species conserved Arg-91 residue, that anchors the cleft, results in the greatest changes to physicochemical properties of the protein leading to a change in the CL binding ratio required to effect structural changes and to the ligand-exchange properties of the ferrous cytochrome c/CL complex.

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