Proton pathways in energy conversion : K-pathway analogs in O2- and NO-reductases

Abstract: Oxygen and nitric oxide reductases are enzymes found in aerobic and anaerobic respiration, respectively. Both enzyme groups belong to the superfamily of Heme-Copper Oxidases, which is further divided into several subgroups: oxygen-reducing enzymes into A-, B- and C-type and nitric oxide reductases into qNORs and cNORs. Oxygen reducing enzymes use the energy released from oxygen reduction to take up electrons and protons from different sides of the membrane. Additionally, protons are pumped. These processes produce a membrane potential, which is used by the ATP-synthase to produce ATP, the universal energy currency of the cell. Nitric oxide reductases are not known to conserve the energy from nitric oxide reduction, although the reaction is highly exergonic.Here, the detailed mechanism of a B-type oxidase is studied with special interest in an element involved in proton pumping (proton loading site, PLS). The study supports the hypothesis that the PLS is protonated in one and deprotonated in the consecutive step of the oxidative catalytic cycle, and that a proton is pumped during the final oxidation phase. It further strengthens the previous suggestion that the PLS is a cluster instead of a single residue or heme propionate. Additionally, it is proposed that the residue Asp372, which is in vicinity of the heme a3 propionates previously suggested as PLS, is part of this cluster. In another study, we show that the Glu15II at the entry of the proton pathway in the B-type oxidase is the only crucial residue for proton uptake, while Tyr248 is or is close to the internal proton donor responsible for coupling proton pumping to oxygen reduction.The thesis also includes studies on the mechanism and electrogenicity of qNOR. We show that there is a difference in the proton-uptake reaction between qNOR and the non-electrogenic homolog cNOR, hinting at a different reaction mechanism. Further, studies on a qNOR from a different host showed that qNOR is indeed electrogenic. This surprising result opens up new discussions on the evolution of oxygen and nitric oxide reductases, and about how energy conservation can be achieved.

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