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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Oct;1817(10):1776-84. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2012.03.021. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

Tracing the tail of ubiquinone in mitochondrial complex I.

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Goethe-University, Theodor-Stern-Kai 7, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Mitochondrial complex I (proton pumping NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase) is the largest and most complicated component of the respiratory electron transfer chain. Despite its central role in biological energy conversion the structure and function of this membrane integral multiprotein complex is still poorly understood. Recent insights into the structure of complex I by X-ray crystallography have shown that iron-sulfur cluster N2, the immediate electron donor for ubiquinone, resides about 30Å above the membrane domain and mutagenesis studies suggested that the active site for the hydrophobic substrate is located next to this redox-center. To trace the path for the hydrophobic tail of ubiquinone when it enters the peripheral arm of complex I, we performed an extensive structure/function analysis of complex I from Yarrowia lipolytica monitoring the interaction of site-directed mutants with five ubiquinone derivatives carrying different tails. The catalytic activity of a subset of mutants was strictly dependent on the presence of intact isoprenoid moieties in the tail. Overall a consistent picture emerged suggesting that the tail of ubiquinone enters through a narrow path at the interface between the 49-kDa and PSST subunits. Most notably we identified a set of methionines that seems to form a hydrophobic gate to the active site reminiscent to the M-domains involved in the interaction with hydrophobic targeting sequences with the signal recognition particle of the endoplasmic reticulum. Interestingly, two of the amino acids critical for the interaction with the ubiquinone tail are different in bovine complex I and we could show that one of these exchanges is responsible for the lower sensitivity of Y. lipolytica complex I towards the inhibitor rotenone. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: 17th European Bioenergetics Conference (EBEC 2012).

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