1. The roles of the three protein components of soluble methane mono-oxygenase were investigated by the use of rapid-reaction techniques. The transfer of electrons through the enzyme complex from NADH to methane/O2 was also investigated. 2. Electron transfer from protein C, the reductase component, to protein A, the hydroxylase component, was demonstrated. Protein C was shown to undergo a three-electron--one-electron catalytic cycle. The interaction of protein C with NADH was investigated. Reduction of protein C was shown to be rapid, and a charge-transfer interaction between reduced FAD and NAD+ was observed; this intermediate was also found in static titration experiments. Thus the binding of NADH, the reduction of protein C and the intramolecular transfer of electrons through protein C were shown to be much more rapid than the turnover rate of methane mono-oxygenase. 3. The rate of transfer of electrons from protein C to protein A was shown to be lower than the reduction of protein C but higher than the turnover rate of methane mono-oxygenase. Association of the proteins was not rate-limiting. The amount of protein A present in the system had a small effect on the rate of reduction of protein C, indicating some co-operativity between the two proteins. 4. Protein B was shown to prevent electron transfer between protein C and protein A in the absence of methane. On addition of saturating concentrations of methane electron transfer was restored. With saturating concentrations of methane and O2 the observed rate constant for the conversion of methane into methanol was 0.26 s-1 at 18 degrees C. 5. By the use of [2H4]methane it was demonstrated that C-H-bond breakage is likely to be the rate-limiting step in the conversion of methane into methanol.

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