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Cytochrome c oxidase: structure and spectroscopy.

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  • 1Max-Planck-Institut für Biophysik, Frankfurt/Main, Germany.


Cytochrome c oxidase, the terminal enzyme of the respiratory chains of mitochondria and aerobic bacteria, catalyzes electron transfer from cytochrome c to molecular oxygen, reducing the latter to water. Electron transfer is coupled to proton translocation across the membrane, resulting in a proton and charge gradient that is then employed by the F0F1-ATPase to synthesize ATP. Over the last years, substantial progress has been made in our understanding of the structure and function of this enzyme. Spectroscopic techniques such as EPR, absorbance and resonance Raman spectroscopy, in combination with site-directed mutagenesis work, have been successfully applied to elucidate the nature of the cofactors and their ligands, to identify key residues involved in proton transfer, and to gain insight into the catalytic cycle and the structures of its intermediates. Recently, the crystal structures of a bacterial and a mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase have been determined. In this review, we provide an overview of the crystal structures, summarize recent spectroscopic work, and combine structural and spectroscopic data in discussing mechanistic aspects of the enzyme. For the latter, we focus on the structure of the oxygen intermediates, proton-transfer pathways, and the much-debated issue of how electron transfer in the enzyme might be coupled to proton translocation.

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