Active site rearrangement and structural divergence in prokaryotic respiratory oxidases

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Science  04 Oct 2019:
Vol. 366, Issue 6461, pp. 100-104
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay0967

Hemes switch spots in a terminal oxidase

Reduction of molecular oxygen to water is the driving force for respiration in aerobic organisms and is catalyzed by several distinct integral membrane complexes. These include an exclusively prokaryotic enzyme, cytochrome bd–type quinol oxidase, which is a potential antimicrobial target. Safarian et al. determined a high-resolution cryo–electron microscopy structure of this enzyme from the enteric bacterium Escherichia coli. Comparison to a homolog reveals a complete relocation of the site of oxygen binding and reduction caused by a change in the arrangement of heme cofactors and channels in the protein scaffold. This switch illustrates the diversity of structure and function in this family of enzymes and might reflect different biochemical roles of these homologs.

Science, this issue p. 100


Cytochrome bd–type quinol oxidases catalyze the reduction of molecular oxygen to water in the respiratory chain of many human-pathogenic bacteria. They are structurally unrelated to mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidases and are therefore a prime target for the development of antimicrobial drugs. We determined the structure of the Escherichia coli cytochrome bd-I oxidase by single-particle cryo–electron microscopy to a resolution of 2.7 angstroms. Our structure contains a previously unknown accessory subunit CydH, the L-subfamily–specific Q-loop domain, a structural ubiquinone-8 cofactor, an active-site density interpreted as dioxygen, distinct water-filled proton channels, and an oxygen-conducting pathway. Comparison with another cytochrome bd oxidase reveals structural divergence in the family, including rearrangement of high-spin hemes and conformational adaption of a transmembrane helix to generate a distinct oxygen-binding site.

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