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J Biol Chem. 1988 Feb 25;263(6):2712-8.

The oxygen dependence of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation measured by a new optical method for measuring oxygen concentration.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Medical School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104.


Oxygen-dependent quenching of phosphorescence has been used to measure the dependence of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation on oxygen concentration in suspensions of isolated rat liver mitochondria. An instrument has been designed which simultaneously monitors the phosphorescence lifetime of a fluorophor and the reduction of cytochrome c by dual wavelength spectrophotometry. The phosphorescence lifetime method gives very rapid (less than 100 ms) measure of the oxygen concentration (Vanderkooi, J. M., Maniara, G., Green, T. J., and Wilson, D. F. (1987) J. Biol. Chem. 262, 5476-5482) from concentrations characteristic of air-saturated media to as low as 2 x 10(-8) M. The results may be summarized as follows. For well coupled rat liver mitochondria at pH 7.0 and in the presence of ATP, as the oxygen concentration was lowered, increased cytochrome c reduction was observed to begin at oxygen concentrations greater than 20 microM. For mitochondria in the presence of uncoupler, cytochrome c reduction began at oxygen concentrations less than 1.0 microM. The oxygen dependence of reduction of cytochrome c in well coupled mitochondria treated with ATP was strongly dependent on the pH of the suspending medium. Reduction of cytochrome c began at higher oxygen concentrations as the pH was made more alkaline. The oxygen concentration for half-maximal respiratory rates was much larger for well coupled mitochondria treated with ATP (approximately 0.7 microM) than for mitochondria treated with uncoupler (less than 0.1 microM). It is concluded that the oxygen dependence of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation is such that mitochondria could function in their proposed role of tissue oxygen sensors for regulation of such diverse functions as local blood flow and electrical activity in the carotid body.

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