The functions of the lungs, the blood circulation, and the red blood cells in respiration are only an overture to the physicochemical reaction in the cells where oxygen is reduced to water. Oxygen consumption in cell respiration is a strictly controlled enzymatic reaction in the inner mitochondrial membrane. The respiratory enzyme cytochrome oxidase functions as a proton pump that transduces free energy from oxygen reduction to an electrochemical proton gradient, which is utilised by another enzyme to produce ATP, the cells’ general energy currency.
The results by the research group of academy professor Mårten Wikström revealed the coupling between the function of the proton pump and oxygen reduction: an internal electron transfer initiates the first stage of the pump mechanism. "This finding opens the door towards understanding the mechanism, which has been the subject of research for almost 30 years", Wikström says.
The proton pump of cytochrome oxidase is closely linked to the process by which the energy of foodstuffs is transduced into a useful energy source for our cells. Another enzyme makes use of the proton gradient generated by the pump, synthesising adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that powers energy-requiring functions such as muscle contraction and nerve impulses. The central biological importance of this system is evident, for example from the almost immediate death that follows from blocking cell respiration, e.g. by cyanide.
Cytochrome oxidase functions as an energy transducer in much the same way as a fuel cell. It is a biological "nanomachine" that has evolved over billions of years, and has an efficiency better than 90%.
Wikström and his colleagues study both the chemical reaction and the proton pump of cytochrome oxidase by biophysical techniques with a time resolution less than one microsecond. In this way it has been possible to monitor the enzyme’s functions in real time. It takes about one millisecond for the respiratory enzyme to reduce one oxygen molecule to water. This time includes all the partial reactions, and also the efficient energy-transducing mechanism.
The research was supported by grants from the Sigrid Juse´lius Foundation, Biocentrum Helsinki and the Academy of Finland.
Mårten Wikström | alfa
Lipid nanodiscs stabilize misfolding protein intermediates red-handed
18.12.2017 | Technische Universität München
Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
A study carried out by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Physical Review X shows that ion-trap technologies available today are suitable for building large-scale quantum computers. The scientists introduce trapped-ion quantum error correction protocols that detect and correct processing errors.
In order to reach their full potential, today’s quantum computer prototypes have to meet specific criteria: First, they have to be made bigger, which means...
Since 2016, German and Spanish researchers, among them scientists from the University of Göttingen, have been hunting for exoplanets with the “Carmenes”...
DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.
Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
18.12.2017 | Information Technology
18.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science