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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012 Apr;1817(4):468-75. doi: 10.1016/j.bbabio.2011.10.010. Epub 2011 Nov 4.

Active site intermediates in the reduction of O(2) by cytochrome oxidase, and their derivatives.

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University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


The mechanism of dioxygen activation and reduction in cell respiration, as catalysed by cytochrome c oxidase, has a long history. The work by Otto Warburg, David Keilin and Britton Chance defined the dioxygen-binding heme iron centre, viz. das Atmungsferment, or cytochrome a(3). Chance brought the field further in the mid-1970's by ingenious low-temperature studies that for the first time identified the primary enzyme-substrate (ES) Michaelis complex of cell respiration, the dioxygen adduct of heme a(3), which he termed Compound A. Further work using optical, resonance Raman, EPR, and other sophisticated spectroscopic techniques, some of which with microsecond time resolution, has brought us to the situation today, where major principles of how O(2) reduction occurs in respiration are well understood. Nonetheless, some questions have remained open, for example concerning the precise structures, catalytic roles, and spectroscopic properties of the breakdown products of Compound A that have been called P, F (for peroxy and ferryl), and O (oxidised). This nomenclature has been known to be inadequate for some time already, and an alternative will be suggested here. In addition, the multiple forms of P, F and O states have been confusing, a situation that we endeavour to help clarifying. The P and F states formed artificially by reacting cytochrome oxidase with hydrogen peroxide are especially scrutinised, and some novel interpretations will be given that may account for previously unexplained observations.

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