An Electronic Bus Bar Lies in the Core of Cytochrome bc1

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Science  23 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5990, pp. 451-454
DOI: 10.1126/science.1190899

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The ubiquinol–cytochrome c oxidoreductases, central to cellular respiration and photosynthesis, are homodimers. High symmetry has frustrated resolution of whether cross-dimer interactions are functionally important. This has resulted in a proliferation of contradictory models. Here, we duplicated and fused cytochrome b subunits, and then broke symmetry by introducing independent mutations into each monomer. Electrons moved freely within and between monomers, crossing an electron-transfer bridge between two hemes in the core of the dimer. This revealed an H-shaped electron-transfer system that distributes electrons between four quinone oxidation-reduction terminals at the corners of the dimer within the millisecond time scale of enzymatic turnover. Free and unregulated distribution of electrons acts like a molecular-scale bus bar, a design often exploited in electronics.

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