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Journal Article

Electrostatics, hydration, and proton transfer dynamics in the membrane domain of respiratory complex I


Hummer,  Gerhard       
Department of Theoretical Biophysics, Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Max Planck Society;

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Kaila, V. R., Wikström, M., & Hummer, G. (2014). Electrostatics, hydration, and proton transfer dynamics in the membrane domain of respiratory complex I. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(19), 6988-6993. doi:doi/10.1073/pnas.1319156111.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0026-B197-4
Complex I serves as the primary electron entry point into the mitochondrial and bacterial respiratory chains. It catalyzes the reduction of quinones by electron transfer from NADH, and couples this exergonic reaction to the translocation of protons against an electrochemical proton gradient. The membrane domain of the enzyme extends ∼180 Å from the site of quinone reduction to the most distant proton pathway. To elucidate possible mechanisms of the long-range proton-coupled electron transfer process, we perform large-scale atomistic molecular dynamics simulations of the membrane domain of complex I from Escherichia coli. We observe spontaneous hydration of a putative proton entry channel at the NuoN/K interface, which is sensitive to the protonation state of buried glutamic acid residues. In hybrid quantum mechanics/classical mechanics simulations, we find that the observed water wires support rapid proton transfer from the protein surface to the center of the membrane domain. To explore the functional relevance of the pseudosymmetric inverted-repeat structures of the antiporter-like subunits NuoL/M/N, we constructed a symmetry-related structure of a possible alternateaccess state. In molecular dynamics simulations, we find the resulting structural changes to be metastable and reversible at the protein backbone level. However, the increased hydration induced by the conformational change persists, with water molecules establishing enhanced lateral connectivity and pathways for proton transfer between conserved ionizable residues along the center of the membrane domain. Overall, the observed watergated transitions establish conduits for the unidirectional proton translocation processes, and provide a possible coupling mechanism for the energy transduction in complex I.