The two-subunit cytochrome bc complex (NorBC) isolated from membranes of the model denitrifying soil bacterium Paracoccus denitrificans is the best-characterized example of the bacterial respiratory nitric oxide reductases. These are members of the super-family of haem-copper oxidases and are characterized by the elemental composition of their active site, which contains non-haem iron rather than copper, at which the reductive coupling of two molecules of nitric oxide to form nitrous oxide is catalysed. The reaction requires the presence of two substrate molecules at the active site along with the controlled input of two electrons and two protons from the same side of the membrane. In the present paper, we consider progress towards understanding the pathways of electron and proton transfer in NOR and how this information can be integrated with evidence for the likely modes of substrate binding at the active site to propose a revised and experimentally testable reaction mechanism.

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