In biological energy conversion, cross-membrane electron transfer often involves an assembly of two hemes b. The hemes display a large difference in redox midpoint potentials (δEm - b), which in several proteins is assumed to facilitate cross-membrane electron transfer and overcome a barrier of membrane potential. Here we challenge this assumption reporting on heme b ligand mutants of cytochrome bc1 in which, for the first time in transmembrane cytochrome, one natural histidine has been replaced by lysine without loss of the native low spin type of heme iron. With these mutants we show that δEm - b can be markedly increased, and the redox potential of one of the hemes can stay above the level of quinone pool, or δEm - b can be markedly decreased to the point that two hemes are almost isopotential, yet the enzyme retains catalytically competent electron transfer between quinone binding sites and remains functional in vivo. This reveals that cytochrome bc1 can accommodate large changes in δEm - b without hampering catalysis, as long as these changes do not impose overly endergonic steps on downhill electron transfer from substrate to product. We propose that hemes b in this cytochrome and in other membranous cytochromes b act as electronic connectors for the catalytic sites with no fine tuning in δEm - b required for efficient cross-membrane electron transfer.Welink this concept with a natural flexibility in occurrence of several thermodynamic configurations of the direction of electron flow and the direction of the gradient of potential in relation to the vector of the electric membrane potential.
Pintscher, S., Kuleta, P., Cieluch, E., Borek, A., Sarewicz, M., & Osyczka, A. (2016). Tuning of Hemes b equilibrium redox potential is not required for cross-membrane electron transfer. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 291(13), 6872–6881. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M115.712307