Respiratory complex I is a redox-driven proton pump. Several high-resolution structures of complex I have been determined providing important information about the putative proton transfer paths and conformational transitions that may occur during catalysis. However, how redox energy is coupled to the pumping of protons remains unclear. In this article, we review biochemical, structural and molecular simulation data on complex I and discuss several coupling models, including the key unresolved mechanistic questions. Focusing both on the quinone-reductase domain as well as the proton-pumping membrane-bound domain of complex I, we discuss a molecular mechanism of proton pumping that satisfies most experimental and theoretical constraints. We suggest that protonation reactions play an important role not only in catalysis, but also in the physiologically-relevant active/deactive transition of complex I.

You do not currently have access to this content.