We have confirmed that the respiration rate of rat liver mitochondria can be substantially inhibited with only a small drop in proton motive force. We have directly measured the passive proton permeability as a function of delta psi by using K+ diffusion potentials and have shown that there is a large increase in proton permeability at high delta psi. This can quantitatively account for the inhibitor titrations of respiration. delta psi and delta pH were shown to have roughly equal effects on the relatively high respiration rate in static head. The permeabilities to K+, tetramethylammonium+ and choline+ were shown to increase greatly at high delta psi, in a similar way to proton permeability, indicating a similar mechanism of entry.

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