The control of cytochrome c oxidase turnover in proteoliposomes by membrane potential (ΔΨ) and by pH gradient (ΔpH) is probably kinetic in nature, and inhibition by valinomycin and stimulation by nigericin indicate that ΔpH exerts a greater influence than does an equivalent ΔΨ. Oleic acid at 100 µM removes all ΔΨ and ΔpH control, whereas a similar concentration of palmitic acid increases turnover but does not completely abolish control. Valinomycin acts synergistically with both fatty acids, indicating that the latter can act as H+/K+ exchangers, but neither fatty acid alone markedly affects ΔpH, showing that they cannot fully mimic nigericin. Oleate, but not palmitate, diminishes ΔΨ, and can move electrophoretically as oleate anion. Submicromolar palmitic acid concentrations partly stimulate turnover in ΔΨ- and ΔpH-controlled proteoliposomes, as reported by Labonia, Muller and Azzi [(1988) Biochem. J. 254, 130–145], which might represent a direct effect on cytochrome c oxidase. The ubiquity of fatty acids in biological membranes suggests that these substances might be responsible for limiting respiratory control and enzyme activity in vivo.

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Author notes

Present address: Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ, U.K.