Biogenesis of respiratory cytochromes is defined as consisting of the posttranslational processes that are necessary to assemble apoprotein, heme, and sometimes additional cofactors into mature enzyme complexes with electron transfer functions. Different biochemical reactions take place during maturation: (i) targeting of the apoprotein to or through the cytoplasmic membrane to its subcellular destination; (ii) proteolytic processing of precursor forms; (iii) assembly of subunits in the membrane and oligomerization; (iv) translocation and/or modification of heme and covalent or noncovalent binding to the protein moiety; (v) transport, processing, and incorporation of other cofactors; and (vi) folding and stabilization of the protein. These steps are discussed for the maturation of different oxidoreductase complexes, and they are arranged in a linear pathway to best account for experimental findings from studies concerning cytochrome biogenesis. The example of the best-studied case, i.e., maturation of cytochrome c, appears to consist of a pathway that requires at least nine specific genes and more general cellular functions such as protein secretion or the control of the redox state in the periplasm. Covalent attachment of heme appears to be enzyme catalyzed and takes place in the periplasm after translocation of the precursor through the membrane. The genetic characterization and the putative biochemical functions of cytochrome c-specific maturation proteins suggest that they may be organized in a membrane-bound maturase complex. Formation of the multisubunit cytochrome bc, complex and several terminal oxidases of the bo3, bd, aa3, and cbb3 types is discussed in detail, and models for linear maturation pathways are proposed wherever possible.
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