A simple and rapid method for the isolation of a large quantity of cytochrome c oxidase from bovine heart mitochondria was developed, based on selective solubilization of mitochondrial protein with first Triton and then lauryl maltoside. Gel filtration shows that the lauryl maltoside-solubilized oxidase preparation is in a hydrodynamically homogeneous state with a Stokes radius of 7.5 +/- 0.2 nm. It contains 8.0 mumol of haem (with an a/a3 ratio of 1)/g of protein. The catalytic constant (maximum turnover number) with respect to cytochrome c approaches 600 S-1. After further purification of the solubilized enzyme on a sucrose-gradient centrifugation, the purified enzyme has a haem content of 10.3 mumol/g of protein and eight major polypeptide bands shown on SDS/polyacrylamide-gel electrophoresis.

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