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Redox-induced activation of the proton pump in the respiratory complex I

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11571-11576
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number37
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2015
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


Complex I functions as a redox-linked proton pump in the respiratory chains of mitochondria and bacteria, driven by the reduction of quinone (Q) by NADH. Remarkably, the distance between the Q reduction site and the most distant proton channels extends nearly 200 Å. To elucidate the molecular origin of this long-range coupling, we apply a combination of large-scale molecular simulations and a site-directed mutagenesis experiment of a key residue. In hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics simulations, we observe that reduction of Q is coupled to its local protonation by the His-38/Asp-139 ion pair and Tyr-87 of subunit Nqo4. Atomistic classical molecular dynamics simulations further suggest that formation of quinol (QH2) triggers rapid dissociation of the anionic Asp-139 toward the membrane domain that couples to conformational changes in a network of conserved charged residues. Site-directed mutagenesis data confirm the importance of Asp-139; upon mutation to asparagine the Q reductase activity is inhibited by 75%. The current results, together with earlier biochemical data, suggest that the proton pumping in complex I is activated by a unique combination of electrostatic and conformational transitions.

ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Cell respiration, Electron transfer, Molecular dynamics simulations, NADH-quinone oxidoreductase, QM/MM simulations

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland