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FEBS Lett. 1983 Dec 12;164(2):223-6.

Why do c-type cytochromes exist?


The hypothesis presented is that the different classes of c-type cytochrome originated as proteins located in the bacterial periplasmic space, or on the periplasmic side of the cytoplasmic membrane. In these locations, covalent bonds between haem and protein prevented the haem from being lost to the surrounding medium. Subsequent evolution has led to internal location of c-type cytochromes in eucaryotes and cyanobacteria. The covalent links have been retained because of their structural role; a b-type cytochrome could be created with similar molecular properties, but its formation would require a large evolutionary jump. If this hypothesis is correct, it should be useful in unravelling electron transport chains with unconventional donors or acceptors. Apparent exceptions deserve further investigation.

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