This review traces the evolution of the cytochrome bc complexes from their early spread among prokaryotic lineages and up to the mitochondrial cytochrome bc1 complex (complex III) and its role in apoptosis. The results of phylogenomic analysis suggest that the bacterial cytochrome b6f-type complexes with short cytochromes b were the ancient form that preceded in evolution the cytochrome bc1-type complexes with long cytochromes b. The common ancestor of the b6f-type and the bc1-type complexes probably resembled the b6f-type complexes found in Heliobacteriaceae and in some Planctomycetes. Lateral transfers of cytochrome bc operons could account for the several instances of acquisition of different types of bacterial cytochrome bc complexes by archaea. The gradual oxygenation of the atmosphere could be the key evolutionary factor that has driven further divergence and spread of the cytochrome bc complexes. On the one hand, oxygen could be used as a very efficient terminal electron acceptor. On the other hand, auto-oxidation of the components of the bc complex results in the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which necessitated diverse adaptations of the b6f-type and bc1-type complexes, as well as other, functionally coupled proteins. A detailed scenario of the gradual involvement of the cardiolipin-containing mitochondrial cytochrome bc1 complex into the intrinsic apoptotic pathway is proposed, where the functioning of the complex as an apoptotic trigger is viewed as a way to accelerate the elimination of the cells with irreparably damaged, ROS-producing mitochondria. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Respiratory complex III and related bc complexes. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.
Dibrova, D. V., Cherepanov, D. A., Galperin, M. Y., Skulachev, V. P., & Mulkidjanian, A. Y. (2013). Evolution of cytochrome bc complexes: From membrane-anchored dehydrogenases of ancient bacteria to triggers of apoptosis in vertebrates. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Bioenergetics. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbabio.2013.07.006