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Journal Article

Tracing the trail of protons through complex I of the mitochondrial respiratory chain.


Mourier,  Arnaud
Max Planck Society;

Larsson,  Nils-Göran
Max Planck Society;

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Mourier, A., & Larsson, N.-G. (2011). Tracing the trail of protons through complex I of the mitochondrial respiratory chain. PLoS Biol, 9(8), e1001129.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0028-5962-7
Mitochondria are the structures that produce the bulk part of the cellular energy currency ATP, which drives numerous energy requiring processes in the cell. This process involves a series of large enzyme complexes--the respiratory chain--that couples the transfer of electrons to the creation of a concentration gradient of protons across the inner mitochondrial membrane, which drives ATP synthesis. Complex I (or NADH-quinone oxidoreductase) is the largest and by far the most complicated of the respiratory chain enzyme complexes. The molecular mechanism whereby it couples electron transfer to proton extrusion has remained mysterious until very recently. Low-resolution X-ray structures of complex I have, surprisingly, suggested that electron transfer in the hydrophilic arm, protruding into the mitochondrial matrix, causes movement of a coupling rod that influences three putative proton pumps within the hydrophobic arm embedded in the inner mitochondrial membrane. In this Primer, we will briefly introduce the recent progress made in this area and highlight the road ahead that likely will unravel the detailed molecular mechanisms of complex I function.