A direct kinetic analysis is presented of rapid proton-releasing reactions at the outer or C-side of the membrane, in ox heart and rat liver mitochondria, associated with aerobic oxidation of reduced terminal respiratory carriers in the presence of antimycin. Valinomycin plus K+ enhances the rate of cytochrome c oxidation and the rate and extent of H+ release. In the presence of valinomycin the leads to H+/e- ratio, computed on the basis of total electron flow from respiratory carriers to oxygen, varies with pH, remaining always lower than 1, and is unaffected by N-ethylmaleimide. 2-Heptyl-4-hydroxyquinoline N-oxide and 5-(n-undecyl)-6-hydroxy-4,7-dioxobenzothiazole, at concentrations which inhibit in the presence of antimycin the oxygen-induced reduction of b cytochromes, cause also a marked depression of the H+ release associated with aerobic oxidation of terminal respiratory carriers. Aerobic oxidation of the cytochrome system in mitochondria and of isolated b-c1 complex and cytochrome c oxidase results in scalar proton release from ionizable groups (redox Bohr effects). In mitochondria and submitochondrial particles, about 70% of the oxidoreductions of the components of the cytochrome system are linked to scalar proton transfer by ionizable groups. In isolated b-c1 complex scalar proton transfer, resulting from redox Bohr effect, amounts to 0.9H+ per Fe-S protein (190 muT). In isolated cytochrome c oxidase, Bohr protons amount to 0.8 per haem a + a3. The results presented indicate that the H+ release from mitochondria during oxidation of terminal respiratory carriers derives from residual antimycin-insensitive electron flow in the quinone-cytochrome c span and from redox Bohr effects in the b-c1 complex and cytochrome c oxidase. There is no sign of proton pumping by cytochrome oxidase during its transition from the reduced to the active ‘pulsed’ state and the first one or two turnovers.

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