Cations caused a decrease in the apparent Km and an increase in the Vmax. for the oxidation of exogenous NADH by both Jerusalem-artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus) and Arum maculatum (cuckoo-pint) mitochondria prepared and suspended in a low-cation medium (approximately or equal to 1 mM-K+). In Arum mitochondria the addition of cations caused a much greater stimulation of the oxidation of NAD(P)H via the cytochrome oxidase pathway than via the alternative, antimycin-insensitive, pathway. This shows that cations affected a rate-limiting step in the electron-transport chain at or beyond ubiquinone, the branch-point of electron transport in plant mitochondria. The effects were only dependent on the valency of the cation (efficiency C3+ greater than C2+ greater than C+) and not on its chemical nature, which is consistent with the theory of the diffuse layer. The results are interpreted to show that the screening of fixed negative membrane changes on lipids and protein complexes causes a conformational change in the mitochondrial inner membrane, leading to a change in a rate-limiting step of NAD(P)H oxidation. More specifically, it is proposed that screening removes electrostatic restrictions on lateral diffusion and thus accelerates diffusion-limited steps in electron transport.

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