Respiratory oxidases are membrane-bound electron-transfer complexes which catalyze the reduction of molecular dioxygen to water and use the associated free energy changes to generate a transmembrane proton gradient. This proton gradient is the primary source of energy for biological free energy in humans. In recent years it has become apparent that most respiratory oxidases are members of a single family, the heme-copper oxidase super-family. Members of this family have a unique bimetallic center composed of heme plus copper; at this center dioxygen is reduced and high affinity ligands are bound. Cytochrome c oxidase (CcO) catalyzes in one enzymatic cycle the oxidation of four equivalents of ferrocytochrome c located on the cytosolic side of the inner mitochondrial membrane and this oxidation is accompanied by the consumption of four protons from the matrix space to complete the formation of two water molecules. The free energy expended in the formation of water is not dissipated but conserved as a trans-membrane proton gradient with a stoichiometry one proton translocated per electron transferred. The complete conversion of oxygen to water proceeds through specific oxy intermediates corresponding to discrete chemical states of the binuclear center. Despite a large body of valuable knowledge that has been accumulated in recent years the chemical nature of certain of these oxy intermediates is still controversial and very little is known about the proton pumping mechanism per se and the involvement of these intermediates in the pumping process. The objective of this proposal is to establish the nature of selected oxy intermediates, their protonation state, the mechanism and the redox stoichiometry of their interconversion, the relation of these intermediates to the proton pumping activity, to test the hypothesis that the conservation of electroneutrality at the binuclear center is a fundamental requirement and to characterize the mechanism of ligand interaction(s). To address these problems we plan to use isolated mitochondria, purified bovine CcO and CcO incorporated into vesicles. Optical spectroscopy, electron paramagnetic resonance with rapid quenching kinetics, magnetic and natural circular dichroism, resonance Raman spectroscopy, stopped-flow kinetics, and several biochemical methods will be used to accomplish these goals.
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