Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans is an acidophilic chemolithoautotrophic Gram-negative bacterium that can derive energy from the oxidation of ferrous iron at pH 2 using oxygen as electron acceptor. The study of this bacterium has economic and fundamental biological interest because of its use in the industrial extraction of copper and uranium from ores. For this reason, its respiratory chain has been analysed in detail in recent years. Studies have shown the presence of a functional supercomplex that spans the outer and the inner membranes and allows a direct electron transfer from the extracellular Fe2+ ions to the inner membrane cytochrome c oxidase. Iron induces the expression of two operons encoding proteins implicated in this complex as well as in the regeneration of the reducing power. Most of these are metalloproteins that have been characterized biochemically, structurally and biophysically. For some of them, the molecular basis of their adaptation to the periplasmic acidic environment has been described. Modifications in the metal surroundings have been highlighted for cytochrome c and rusticyanin, whereas, for the cytochrome c oxidase, an additional partner that maintains its stability and activity has been demonstrated recently.

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