Cytochrome c oxidase

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The enzyme cytochrome c oxidase or Complex IV (PDB 2OCC, EC is a large transmembrane protein complex found in bacteria and the mitochondrion.

It is the last enzyme in the respiratory electron transport chain of mitochondria (or bacteria) located in the mitochondrial (or bacterial) membrane. It receives an electron from each of four cytochrome c molecules, and transfers them to one oxygen molecule, converting molecular oxygen to two molecules of water. In the process, it binds four protons from the inner aqueous phase to make water, and in addition translocates four protons across the membrane, helping to establish a transmembrane difference of proton electrochemical potential that the ATP synthase then uses to synthesize ATP.



The complex is a large integral membrane protein composed of several metal prosthetic sites and 13 protein subunits in mammals. In mammals, ten subunits are nuclear in origin, and three are synthesized in the mitochondria. The complex contains two hemes, a cytochrome a and cytochrome a3, and two copper centers, the CuA and CuB centers[1]. In fact, the cytochrome a3 and CuB form a binuclear center that is the site of oxygen reduction. Cytochrome c reduced by the preceding component of the respiratory chain (cytochrome bc1 complex, complex III) docks near the CuA binuclear center, passing an electron to it and being oxidized back to cytochrome c containing Fe3+. The reduced CuA binuclear center now passes an electron on to cytochrome a, which in turn passes an electron on to the cytochrome a3- CuB binuclear center. The two metal ions in this binuclear center are 4.5 Å apart and coordinate a hydroxide ion in the fully oxidized state.

Crystallographic studies of cytochrome c oxidase show an unusual post-translational modification, linking C6 of Tyr(244) and the ε-N of His(240) (bovine enzyme numbering). It plays a vital role in enabling the cytochrome a3- CuB binuclear center to accept four electrons in reducing molecular oxygen to water. The mechanism of reduction was formerly thought to involve a peroxide intermediate, which was believed to lead to superoxide production. However, the currently accepted mechanism involves a rapid four electron reduction involving immediate oxygen-oxygen bond cleavage, avoiding any intermediate likely to form superoxide [2].

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